Some sheep farmers that brought home lowland lambs from the mart last week and got €20 more per head this week as the sheep trade took a welcome lift. On a trailer of 20 lambs that’s €400 at the top end and probably more than the profit per ewe for the year for many.

Had these lambs gone to the factory, there’d be no coming back.

Granted, this example is not wide scale, with mart prices €2-4/lamb firmer on average, but it shows the importance of knowing the value of your animals.

It also highlights the benefit of considering all market outlets and the key role marts and alternative outlets play in influencing real income for farmers.

Similarly, suckler weanlings are making €3/kg to €4/kg liveweight in Ennis mart this week for quality late autumn-born and early spring calves.

Again these animals come from more disadvantaged parts of the country in terms of land quality. However, quality genetics and management means, at these prices, they can make a return to the farm business.

Farmers in these disadvantaged parts need more than this to survive to keep them farming because the public service and the rural support these small family farms deliver locally will only truly be missed when they disappear.

As an industry we need alternative income and profit generators for these farmers and this farmland, and it’s sadly lacking at the moment. Take 30% more sucklers away over the next five years and the situation becomes critical.