Slaughter of the lambs

Questions over future of lamb. Photograph Russell Bruce for Newsnet

By Russell Bruce

Farmers want to know how they can survive when crashing out of the EU means sales of lamb to EU markets will dry up because of 40% tariffs. The question has been asked for months now there is an answer –

Excess lamb will be slaughtered.

With their dunce caps on Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have come up with an idea. If there are too many lambs for the home market to absorb then lambs will be slaughtered to keep prices up. So will this be a return to the animal funeral pyres following the foot and mouth disaster of 2001?

With no end of magic money, £500 million will be made available to farmers to have their lambs slaughtered instead of being served up in homes and restaurants throughout Europe. Scottish farmers are proud of producing Scotch Quality Lamb as part of the farming calendar. Production is geared to demand and without European markets farm income will be hit, especially in upland areas of Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland.

Farmers can be certain the compensation payments will not compensate for the value of lost exports. How will the scheme work? Do farmers have to care for them until they would be ready for market or are they strangled at birth? No doubt civil servants at DEFRA will be tasked with coming up with the compensation scheme.

As a youngster I spent time on a family member’s farm in Aberdeenshire during lambing and no doubt was more a hindrance than a help. I saw it all; ewes that needed intervention to give birth and cousin Walter with most of his arm up the rear end of a ewe to bring the lamb into the world, the afterbirth, those abandoned by their mothers or too weak to survive if left outdoors and taken into the farmhouse kitchen. The dedication to maximizing survival is what farmers continue to do today.

With a key lamb market lost with no deal, what is the point?
There no real alternatives for our hill farmers to find alternative income sources and this will be a very significant loss to Scotland’s food exports.

Whatever the compensation scheme is it will be short lived. no doubt simply meant as a tiding over exercise to adjust to lower market demand.

Scotch Quality Beef and Scotch Quality Lamb both have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status – for now before Johnson crashes out of the EU

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Royal Highland Show in June where she announced the Good Food Futures programme backed by £1 million of Scottish Government funding to teach children and young people about Scotland’s food.