The Department of Agriculture introduced legislation in 2016 to give legal recognition to producer organisations in the beef sector. There are numerous producer organisations in the sheep sector that developing new groups could learn from or gain insights into the working of groups. One such group is the South Mayo Quality Producer Group.
The group are celebrating 30 years in existence and according to secretary Assumpta Mullin the central theme of delivering the best possible service to its members still remains at the forefront of the objectives. The initial formation of the producer group stemmed from poor market prices and difficulties in getting lambs accepted for slaughter.
If we think about the formation of a group now and the technologies available to communicate it is a far cry from the communication channels present in 1988. Assumpta says, however, that this was not a barrier with the group formed in spring of 1988 and comprising 50 to 60 members. Group members John and Anne Flannelly co-ordinated booking of lambs by phone prior to transporting to the factory. The inaugural deal completed was with the halal meat factory in Ballyhaunis which is now operated by Dawn Meats, which the group continues to trade with.
Assumpta says that from the outset there was an appetite to widen the service offered to members outside of trading lambs. A ram premium scheme was initiated to encourage members to improve breeding within their flocks by the purchase of rams with good breeding credentials and the establishment of an annual ram show, an initiative that remains in place today.
Another constant of the group was Knowledge Transfer with the group running discussion-group format meetings before the current-day format while close links with local Teagasc advisers supported information events and study trips.
Assumpta says the group honed in on quality through the 1990s and in 2000 took the decision to implement its own quality assurance scheme whereby every lamb traded through the group was tagged. The foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 superseded the tagging project with tagging rolled out on a national basis.
Taking control of their actions
Current group chair Pat Waldron says the success of the group can be attributed to the group taking control of their own actions. “The fact that it’s an organisation run by farmers for farmers and not Department or industry-led and that committee members are active sheep farmers and are well-positioned to understand the daily workings of sheep farming is a huge help.” Pat says that working alongside like-minded people also helps and this was the foundation for the group’s amalgamation with the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group and the Mayo Mountain Blackface Sheep Breeders Society under the umbrella name of The Lake District Sheep Producers. The three groups have a weekly office catering for just under 600 members.
A charity element has also been a major focal point and remains as such with the group hosting a 30th celebratory dinner dance in association with the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris on Saturday 17 November at 8pm. Guest speaker is Dr Paddy Wall and tickets are available by contacting the office on 094 95 21820.