‘Dubious method of determining age sees farmers lose €30/hogget’

A dubious method of determining age could see the price farmers receive for hoggets fall by €30/head, the ICSA’s Sheep Chairman John Brooks has said.

Brooks has hit out at the practice of classifying hoggets as ewes for the purposes of paying out a lower price.

“Payments made by processors at a lower rate than a hogget rate can lead to a price reduction of up to €1.50/kg, so a typical hogget of 24kg is downgraded by up to €30/head,” he said.

The ICSA representative described the method employed by meat processors and the Department of Agriculture officials to determine age as a “flawed science”.

“This dubious method of determining age is happening where hoggets’ mouths are being examined and those animals found with breaking teeth are classified as ewes.

The process of emerging teeth can take place at any stage between 11-to-18 months depending on a variety of factors.

“It cannot and should not be used to conclusively determine the age of a hogget,” he said.

Brooks also said that one hogget is much the same as another when it comes to the quality of meat.

“No Department inspector can argue that they are 100% spot on in determining age.

“It is an arbitrary downgrading of sheep which results in big gains for the processor and more losses for the sheep farmer. It is not based on scientific precision and must be ended,” he said.

Sheep trade

There has been a widespread fall in sheep factory quotes, with the prices for spring lambs, hoggets and cast ewes all back on last week.

Spring lamb quotes have dropped by 50c/kg this week on last week’s levels, with procurement managers now offering 550c/kg for these lots.

On a 20kg new season lamb carcass, this represents a price cut of €10/head on last week or €14/head over the last two weeks.

Procurement managers have also dropped the hogget quoted price from 530c/kg to 500c/kg this week, due to an increase in the number of hoggets available in the UK.

Cast ewes prices have also taken a hit, falling from 290-300c/kg last week to a base price of 250-260c/kg this week. On a 40kg carcass this is a drop €12/head.