Opinion

Love it or loathe it, we need a QPS grid for lambs

Love it or loathe it, the Quality Pricing System (QPS) – or grid – for beef has presented farmers with an avenue and a means of being rewarded for producing better-quality animals.

Backed by science, the system has received its fair share of criticism down through the years. Depending on which way prices are blowing, it’s either a crucifix for suckler or dairy-beef to carry.

Regardless of this, however, is the fact that beef producers have a target to aim at when it comes to maximising the returns achievable.

Lest we forget that dairy and tillage farmers are in the same boat when it comes to quality-related bonuses for the products they produce; if you produce quality, you’ll be rewarded.

Unfortunately, however, this is not the case for sheep farmers. For decades now, spring lambs – irrespective of carcass conformation or grade – have been paid at the same base price.

Although producer groups such as the QualEUtex deserve credit for maximising the returns for their lambs, farmers not involved in this initiative face the prospect of receiving the same €/kg price for R-grade lambs as they do E-grade lambs.

And, for the future sustainability of the Irish sheep industry, this needs to be addressed. Why would you strive to produce better-quality stock and not be rewarded? It simply doesn’t make sense.

When it comes to sheep production in Ireland, ambitious targets have been set by those who do not set foot on sheep farms everyday.

The ball has been in the Department of Agriculture’s and the meat industry’s court for some time and now it’s their chance to show they understand the challenges being faced by sheep producers.

We’ve seen the parachuting in of EID (electronic identification) tagging this year; maybe if the above really thought there was a future for the Irish sheep industry, they’d focus on putting more money back in farmers’ pockets rather than taking it away.