Department of Agriculture director meets with farmers

Department of Agriculture director meets with farmers

8 May 2024

A SENIOR official from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs was the guest speaker at the most recent meeting of the Strangford Down lamb and beef group.

Dr Rosemary Agnew is the government department’s Director of Transition Policy and leads on the development of future agricultural policy in Northern Ireland.

Farmers who attended the meeting at Newcastle’s Burrendale Hotel recognised that in the world of agriculture, change is on the way and there is a lot for them to get their head around. 

Sustainability is a key word that crops up frequently with the question can farmers carry on as before, or do they have to modify how things are done to progress into the future?

Everybody is involved in the food business either as a producer or partaker, a supplier or a consumer and across the province, the agriculture and food industry is a significant element of the local economy, with 70,000 people employed in providing and processing in the agri-food supply chain. 

Support measures for the food supply industry will increasingly have a measure applied regarding sustainability, last week’s meeting heard.

Dr Agnew said the emphasis will be on sustainability and long term view as to how agriculture will develop to meet future environmental requirements.

She said there will be an integrated approach to develop land, livestock, infrastructure and people. 

Farmers heard the development of an effective functioning supply chain is supported but there is a requirement to deliver on climate change and provide public good in a value for money way. 

Strangford Down was set up 30 years ago by a group of Co Down farmers, encouraged by local government department farm advisor Vincent Lusby, to market lamb and beef in a more effective way. 

Over the years, the group has grown and developed a functioning supply chain. 

One of the key features was the provision of grading details back to the farmer in order that he could make an informed decision about his selection of lambs, their weight and, in the longer term, his breeding policy and choice of breeds to maximise returns taking into account survival traits, growth rates and meeting grading requirements. 

Over the years, farmers adopted new ideas and refined their systems to match market demands.  

Strangford Down supplies lambs to Linden Foods and during the past year over 16,000 were provided.

Gary Foster, lamb procurement manager at Linden Foods and Alan Montgomery and Crosby Cleland of Strangford Down, coordinate the supply of lambs each week, negotiate on price and organise transport of lambs to the factory. 

Gary specifies that the factory needs quality assured, in spec lambs and has built up a good working relationship with Strangford Down and can be confident that the group will provide the specification needed to maintain the supply for the supermarket outlets. 

Benefits to the producer include free haulage and rapid feedback on grades. 

Strangford Down has four loading points for lambs in Co Down and supplies Linden Foods in Dungannon on a weekly basis. 

Lambs are booked in with the Strangford Down co-ordinator, collected from the four points, delivered to the factory and the grades are sent out by email that afternoon.

In addition, Strangford Down also operates as a buying group and deals are available on fuel with AEG and meal from Thompsons. 

Business Executive Crosby Cleland can be contacted on 07525 237233 and is happy to provide further information on the services available through Strangford Down.