400 light lambs per week to be supplied to Kepak – INHFA

It has been announced that the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has reached an agreement to supply 400 light lambs per week to Kepak Athleague.

The INHFA’s vice-chairman, Brendan Joyce, confirmed the news at the farm organisation’s annual general meeting (AGM) – which took place today (Thursday, June 7) in the Sligo Southern Hotel.

He emphasised that this is a partnership effort between the farmers, Kepak and Bord Bia.

Addressing the AGM – at which the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, was a guest speaker – Joyce said: “For the last 10 years or more, there has been no light lamb quoted for by any factory.

“Last year we met with a number of factories and Bord Bia in relation to the light lamb market, or rather the lack of. We met with Teagasc on a number of occasions in relation to the work they undertook in Athenry of bringing light lambs to specification.

“We also met with potential customers from other countries to get an understanding of what they required in terms of this market.

After quite a bit of work, we started a trial with Kepak in Athleague where we – as farmers – gave an undertaking to get those light lambs to a consistent specification in relation to fat score and – in return – receive a fair price for that effort.

“That trial started last July and, even though no contract existed, it continued right through until spring of this year. Those lambs were offered to a number of markets where there was positive feedback,” the vice-chairman said.

Specification

Joyce went on to announce that the INHFA will be supplying 400 light lambs a week to Kepak, from a carcass weight of 10kg to 15kg, starting on August 1.

He explained that the farm organisation will be holding a number of meetings to inform farmers how this will operate in the coming weeks. Information on those meetings will be sent out early next week, he added.

Continuing, he said: “This is a partnership effort between the farmers, Kepak and Bord Bia.

“It is imperative that every effort is made to understand exactly what is needed and what will be delivered in order to put a foundation under something that is really important for the hill sheep sector.”

Sheep Welfare Scheme

Meanwhile, Joyce also stated that the Sheep Welfare Scheme is “extremely necessary and, in the case of hill sheep farming, vital”.

Commenting on the scheme, he said: “The commitment was to spend €25 million under the scheme per annum; yet the spend is falling almost €6 million short of this.

“We are asking [Minister Creed] to increase the budget to €30 million and to bring the payment per ewe up to €15. The return from sheep – particularly hill sheep – warrants that; there should be no unspent money returning under this scheme.”