Jolyon Higgs questions pricing structure in abattoirs

How different can two years be? This time last year we were recovering from a bitterly cold spell that started in late November and ended at New Year. This year the fields at Cwmfron are sodden but, at the end of December, the grass was still growing, which is a very rare event. Scanning will be interesting, with the ewes having gone to the tups in excellent condition.

Over the Christmas holidays I had a little more time than usual to study our abattoir lamb sheets for lambs not going to Waitrose. I noticed that every lamb is weighed to an accuracy of 0.1kg. This weight is then ’rounded down’ to the nearest half kilo before 0.5kg is deducted to obtain the theoretical cold weight. I cross-checked with my Waitrose sheets and found that they do not round down the weight of the lamb.

On the particular batch of 13 lambs that I was studying, the rounding down had meant that I was not paid for 3.4kg total. At £4/kg this meant that each lamb had had over £1.00 deducted. Why? It means that a producer is losing £1,000 on 1,000 lambs.

I rushed off to town to try this trick myself by filling up with 40.4 litres of fuel and then offering to pay for only 40 litres. No luck; I had to pay for the full amount. Why are the abattoirs different? Perhaps the farming unions should be asking the question.

Jolyon Higgs and family farm 130ha in Llanidloes, mid Wales. His wife Alex and son Tom help at her parent’s 200ha arable and grassland farm, 90 miles away on the Gower. Jolyon keeps 20 suckler cows, finishing the progeny for Dovecote Park. He keeps a closed flock of 600 ewes, producing prime lambs for Waitrose as well as light continental-type lambs.

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