‘If you like going to the mart every week, a producer group is not for you’
A discussion with three farmers who were members of producer groups was held at Sheep 2018 to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

In many areas of the country, farmers have organised groups and pooled resources to increase the end value of their product and create linkage, transport and marketing channels with potential customers.

At Sheep 2018, the Irish Farmers Journal chaired a discussion with three farmers who were members of such groups to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

With much of the stands at the event focused on increasing stocking rate and ewe prolificacy, there were criticisms from some that the sheep sector was going towards numbers and was forgeting about quality.

Donal Mee of the QuelEUtex Lamb Producer Group was keen to emphasise that was not the case in his group.

“We were set up in 2016 to get a number of Texel and Beltex breeders together to produce lambs for the Belgian market. It’s a niche market, but there are niche markets out there - it’s not all about numbers.”

That opinion was echoed by Joe Scahill of the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group.

“You’d get numbers any day of the week, but it’s the quality that’s important. We set that standard for ourselves and by doing that, we now have good-quality breeding sheep and then you collect a certain premium for that ewe.”

He said that it had taken a long number of years for his group to get to where it was when it came to securing a premium for stock.

Ken Mathews from the Offaly Lamb Producer Group pointed out that the primary function his group was to secure the best price it could for supplies, along with some added benefits.

“The real value is the ease. For people who are working off farm, their lambs are collected for them, so that they can get their day's work done. It definitely helps the part-time guys out,” he said.

All three members of the panel agreed that the most important things for a group to succeed were good organisation and committed membership.

While all three highlighted the positives of group membership they did say it was not for everyone. “If you like going to the mart every week you should never join a producer group because you’ll either cause so much hassle in the group or you’ll feel you’re losing out,” Ken said.

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Suppliers don’t want ‘Glanbia’s charity’ – ICMSA
The ICMSA has spoken out strongly against the 2c/l cut and subsequent top-up Glanbia applied to its November milk price.

The ICMSA has heavily criticised Glanbia’s decision to cut its base milk price by 2c/l to 28.46c/l excluding VAT for non-members.

Chair of the ICMSA’s dairy committee Gerald Quain said that suppliers would be angry and confused by the milk processor’s decision.

They don’t want to be recipients of Glanbia’s charity

He acknowledged that markets had not been as strong recently but insisted that they had been gaining momentum, particularly in the powder area.

“Global milk production has only grown by 1.4% in 2018 to the end of October, with a similar figure for the EU,” Quain said.

“Put that very modest growth in supply against the increased volumes and prices of skimmed milk powder that has left Intervention in the last month – over 60,000 tonnes in the last tender – and any reasonable analysis points to a positive market.”

Top-up

Not only did he insist that the cut to Glanbia’s base price was unjustified but he also called the 2c/l top-up to Glanbia members an attempt to fool suppliers.

“I have no idea why Glanbia indulges in this practice of cutting base price and then returning it as ‘top-ups’, as if it was somehow ‘out of the goodness of their hearts,” Quain said.

“They [suppliers] don’t want to be recipients of Glanbia’s charity or to be paid ‘top-ups’ with their own money out of the co-op.”

He added that farmers were now receiving less than the Ornua PPI, which he called embarrassing.

Loyalty payments

Quain continued that with the amount of skimmed milk sold out of intervention recently, the dairy market for 2019 was looking increasingly positive.

Loyalty or hardship top-up payments were common among a number of dairy processors over the last year during trying weather conditions.

Adding it back as a discretionary payment doesn’t fool anyone

However, Quain was emphatic that the ICMSA was not willing to accept a loyalty or hardship top-up payment model.

“If Glanbia wants to pay a bonus or discretionary payment then they should pay it on top of the minimum market price and that is the Ornua PPI. Cutting the base and then adding it back as a discretionary payment doesn’t fool anyone – certainly not their suppliers”, Quain concluded.

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‘Vulture funds want to sell as fast as they can’

In pictures: Christmas time, mistletoe and lime

Weather warning upgraded for storm Deirdre
Met Éireann has warned of "squally and damaging gusts" of wind and heavy rainfall this Saturday.

Previous weather warnings have been upgraded to status orange for southern and north-western coasts as storm Deirdre crosses the country during the day.

From 3pm until the end of the day, winds will reach mean speeds of 65km/h with gusts of 110km/h generally, and up to 120km/h in southern coastsal counties and in Co Donegal.

In the rest of the country, west to northwest winds are set to increase later in the afternoon and evening, with top gusts of 110km/h forecast, leading to a status yellow warning.

Rain warning

Rainfall is also forecast to reach 30mm to 50mm this Saturday, with more in mountainous areas.

In Northern Ireland, the Met Office has issued a status yellow wind and rain warning for counties Down and Armagh, and the eastern parts of counties Derry, Tyrone and Antrim from 6am to 6pm. Wind gusts of 50mph to 60mph are expected, with 30mm to 50mm of rainfall in six to 12 hours.

Several thousand customers were without electricity on Saturday evening, according to ESB Networks, most of them in counties Cork and Waterford.

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Letter: a weather survey request

The farmer's daily wrap: M&S protest and weather warning
Catch up with all the headlines from the day and get a look ahead at tomorrow's weather.

Weather forecast

Wet and windy conditions are forecast by Met Éireann for Saturday with the risk of severe and potentially damaging gusts during the evening.

The rain will be heavy and persistent at times, with localised surface flooding possible.

Maximum afternoon temperatures will range 7°C to 11°C degrees generally.

Strong to gale force southeasterly winds will veer west to northwest during the course of the afternoon and evening.

In the news

  • Farmers from the IFA held a protest outside Marks & Spencer in Liffey Valley on Friday over reductions on the shelf price of some vegetables and potatoes to as low as 20c/kg.
  • Met Éireann has issued yellow weather warnings for the whole country that will be in place for all 24 hours of Saturday.
  • The PSNI is seeking information to help in the recovery of 20 cattle that have been reported stolen from Armagh.
  • Co-ops have suggested a weakening of dairy markets is reflected in lower milk prices, but IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan said the signs are there to hold the price.
  • Co Down-based agri supplier and contractor Joseph Walls spread lime for a customer near Castletown, Co Meath, earlier this week.