A bonus scheme for lambs sired by pedigree Hampshire Down rams was launched at Balmoral Show on Wednesday.

Trevor Todd from the Hampshire Down Lamb Group said the aim is process at least 500 lambs through the new farmer-led initiative this year.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Ballynahinch farmer said the group would pay up to 23kg and would give a 30p/kg bonus above factory base quotes.

“We have run the scheme on a pilot basis to date. Feedback from consumers was positive and this spurred us on to build up a brand identity and develop supply chain arrangements,” Todd said.

“There is a unique flavour to the meat from Hampshire Down lambs. Carcases are low in fat but have just the right amount of marbling. We think the meat has been undersold in the past,” he added.

The group are developing a network of local butchers to process and market lamb through the scheme. They are also looking for outlets in the restaurant trade.

To be eligible for the scheme, lambs must be sired by a pedigree Hampshire Down ram, must be grass fed from birth, and must achieve a U or R grade for conformation. Also, participating flocks need to be accredited under the NI Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme.