Sheep farmers have been encouraged to ‘box clever’ when it comes to getting the balance right with lamb weights in factories by Sean Dennehy.

Dennehy, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) National Sheep Committee chairman, highlighted that, while farmers would be tempted to keep lambs putting on weight once they become fit, if you go over the weight that is allowed, you won’t get the full price per kilo.

“That makes your lamb cheaper per kilo for the factories,” the chairman highlighted, noting that this has consequences.

If lambs are sent in overweight – if they are 10% above the required weight, the processor will essentially get 10% off those lambs, should every kilogram be taken into account, Dennehy explained.

This is not only bad news for the farmer who owns such lambs, but it also puts pressure on the going price in general, he added, as the farmer is inadvertently going under the given price.

Continuing, Dennehy said:

“Equally then, if you’re selling lambs that are underfinished, you’re wronging yourself.

If you’re trying to maximise your weight, you’re bound to have some lambs that will be pushing up to the weight, and it’s very hard to be a judge of it exactly, but if you’ve some weights that are overweight, there’s other places you can carry those lambs to.

“My heavy lambs went to a butcher; my lighter lambs went to the factory,” he added.

Continuing, the chairman added:

“Part of our job as a farm organisation is, twice a week we send out texts to farmers on the price, the trend and the weights that farmers are getting. As the season goes on, the weight goes up.

“As soon as we get wind of someone getting 21.5kg or 22kg, we send that out and keep farmers focused on aiming for more weight as the season goes on.

The prices we give out are the prices farmers are getting as well – we’re keeping them informed of what the best prices of the week are so that they have the tools to bargain when they are dealing with agents or buyers.

“That’s another part of it as well; bargain hard on price and weight and keep moving lambs as they become fit,” Dennehy stressed.

“If you hold them that week extra or two weeks longer, it’s costing you money to hold them as well,” the chairman concluded.