Farmer Focus Livestock: Victor Chestnutt is encouraged by rising sheep prices

Recently my wife and I spent an enjoyable day at Glasgow University (at least no one can now say I’ve never been to uni!).

The organisation and grandeur of the graduation ceremony was matched only by the architecture of the Bute Hall and the strawberry tarts. Best wishes to all who graduated along with my daughter Zara.

On my last article I covered the closure of the lamb line in Foyle Meats. Our Causeway group is trialling killing lamb at Irish Country Meats in the Republic. Change need not always be such a bad thing as the plant down there is dedicated to sheep only, with all sheep killed to halal standard. There are a reduced number of white-collar staff working there, enabling the lairage to work more efficiently.

EID systems in Northern Ireland are up and running, with farmers, markets, meat plants and assembly centres all putting in huge effort to make the system work. Congratulations to DARD for giving us a more expensive, cumbersome scheme than anywhere else in either the UK or the Republic. Tweaks to the rules for slaughtered sheep and sheep born before EID commenced have saved farmers a huge amount of time and effort.

It’s encouraging to see sheep prices taking a lift, although the trend still is for ewe numbers to reduce, which shows prices can be held too low for too long. I feel numbers will not rise significantly until there is a new generation of young farmers coming through.

Suckler cow numbers in the north are following the same trend and if beef prices do not provide a viable return I fear they may end up like the ewe flock.

Milk prices in NI seem to be a few pennies above the most of the UK and dairy numbers are stable, with smaller herds going out and larger herds increasing in size, with many farmers investing.

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