YORKSHIRE SHEEP farmers have come up with a novel idea to draw the public’s attention to their produce at the Great Yorkshire Show, following a dire year so far for lamb producers.
A pen of larger-than-life model sheep, each one given a “creative and fun makeover”, will be displayed by farmers who want to press home the importance of the lamb sector to the economy, as well as the quality of their meat as part of a healthy diet.
Despite a good lambing period earlier in the year, retail demand for ‘new season’ lamb has been slow to materialise, the National Farmers’ Union said, and as a result farmgate prices are significantly lower - averaging at least 60p per kilo down on last year.
The impact has been little short of a disaster in a county that is home to more than two million sheep, many grazing Yorkshire’s upland areas where livestock rearing is the only viable form of income, the NFU said.
Richard Findlay, the union’s regional livestock board chairman who farms near Whitby, said downward prices were largely because of the effects of a strong pound, making imports from countries such as New Zealand attractive to retailers, while having the opposite effect on exports of British lamb to buyers abroad.
“The fact that we have produced a higher than average number of lambs this year is exacerbating the situation, leaving everyone involved in lamb production facing very tough times,” Mr Findlay said.
“What is particularly galling is that so far the retail price of lamb has remained unchanged so shoppers are unable to take advantage of lower prices. This means that in the last year the farmer’s share of the retail price has fallen 14 per cent from 58 to just 44 per cent.
“This is especially worrying for our hill farming sector where incomes are heavily dependent on the lamb trade.”
The model sheep will feature as part of the NFU’s Food and Farming Roadshow at the Great Yorkshire Show which starts on Tuesday. Visitors will be able to have their photo taken with the sheep and, courtesy of AHDB Beef and Lamb, will be able to pick up lamb recipe ideas.
A range of lamb dishes will be demonstrated in the Cookery Theatre in Hall 1.