Just what Waitrose wants
Just what Waitrose wants
The Daltons have had a visit from Waitroses chief lamb
buyer, as part of their involvement in Farm Assured Welsh
Livestock. Robert Davies reports
COMMITMENT to quality has helped lift sheep income at Gelli Garneddau, with many of the farms finished lambs destined for Waitrose through Farm Assured Welsh Livestock.
A recent visit from the supermarkets chief lamb buyer, Heather Jenkins and scheme co-ordinator, Philip Morgan, emphasised the significance of the partnership.
Mr Morgan, who acts as the link between Waitrose, Edward Hamer International (the processor) and more than 70 producers, said he could not give the number of lambs handled through the scheme "for commercial reasons". But it was "very significant", with over 75% of lambs submitted meeting specification.
In the Daltons case 84% of lambs sent so far this year have been classified E, U or R for conformation and 2 and 3L for fat cover. This compares with 41% of lambs classified by MLC in Wales.
The premium over the weekly SQQ of 20p/kg on Es and 15p/kg on Us and Rs has made it worthwhile investing in flock improvement, Mrs Dalton told her visitors. But she had to be very careful when drawing lambs, and had to have alternative outlets for those that were not good enough.
ADAS consultant Margaret Griffiths said the 20kg carcass upper weight limit kept many excellent conformation lambs out of the scheme. But Mrs Jenkins assured her that Waitrose was working on ways that heavier lambs could be included.
"We have to persuade customers to take bigger joints, or pay the price of the value added products of processing larger carcasses," she said.
After watching the farms weekly draw of lambs, Mrs Jenkins was shown the latest purchase of 33 Texel x Welsh ewe lambs. These were needed to top up numbers because none of the farms 435 quota units could be leased for a fourth year. The mixed bunch came from the local breeder who hires beef bulls to the farm, and cost £41 a head.
A few that are not exactly what Mrs Dalton is looking for will probably be tupped and sold with lambs at foot next spring. Another 40 Beltex or Texel x Scottish Blackface ewe lambs will arrive from a regular supplier in Scotland at a yet-to-be-settled price.
Some 80% of the last 73 lambs submitted to the Farm Assured Welsh Livestock scheme met the specifications. Of these, 10 classified E and 25 U for conformation. They averaged a little over £45 a head. At the last count there were still 350 lambs to sell.
There is plenty of grass available for finishing and to flush ewes before the rams go to work in three weeks time. All the ewes have been dagged and crutched for tupping, and their feet have been checked.
Only 20 of the 50 broken mouthed ewes picked for culling are still on the farm. The rest went through Tregaron market. Prices ranged between £25 and £35 a head, which Mrs Dalton considered very satisfactory for the type of sheep involved.
With the quality of autumn herbage in decline, suckler cows and calves are now getting supplementary big bale silage and straw at grass. For the second year running, straws of Aberdeen-Angus semen are being used on a small number of cows. Some of the heifers produced will be retained as replacements, and the steers sold as stores.
"We have now decided to continue the suckler herd using our full quota of 86 units. As this is not a good cattle finishing farm, we will relieve pressure on buildings and labour by selling stores with blue rather than red cards. We are taking far fewer young cattle into the coming winter. As the new shed is available for loose housing, and there is plenty of fodder in store, I am much happier about cattle than I was a year ago."n
• Gelli Garneddau is one of five farms featured regularly by farmers weekly to highlight topical management issues
This is the sort of lamb Waitrose wants, according to chief lamb buyer, Heather Jenkins (left). Also pictured (from second left) are Margaret Griffiths (AOAS), Philip Morgan (FAWL) and Margaret Dalton.
• A 125ha (310-acre) less favoured area beef and sheep unit in mid-Wales farmed by Margaret Dalton and her son John, who also operates contracting services.
• Managed in association with an ADAS full-farm advisory package.
• Quota for 435 ewes. Scotch Mules are put to Rouge tups and the female progeny used to produce Texel sired prime lambs.
• Quota for 85 sucklers, Hereford x Friesians, Welsh Blacks and Longhorn x Welsh Blacks, used to breed Charolais cross stores.
• Small poultry enterprise.
• One full-time stockman, and variable number of full and part-time contracting staff.