Local craftsman Mark Feeley was busy carving this sculpture out of a four-and-a-half-ton block of Lecarrow limestone. The block he worked on “rings” sweetly when struck with a sledgehammer which means it has no flaws or cracks and is thus perfect for carving. This sculpture has been erected in Roscommon town as a permanent reminder of the importance of the sheep industry to the county.
Opening the 10th Annual Roscommon Lamb Festival, IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said Roscommon sheep farmers are noted for top quality breeding, and lamb production and sheep farming is the very heartbeat of the economic activity in County. He said for the 10th anniversary, the Roscommon festival this year is bigger and better.
John Lynskey said sheep farming is a major enterprise on Irish farms with over 30,000 producers, 2.5m breeding ewes and an output of over 61,000 tonnes. He said we export 50,000t per year with the main markets being France and the UK. He added the total output value for the sheep sector exceeds €300m.
John Lynskey said the IFA National Sheep Committee has worked hard on behalf of producers and secured some major benefits. He said, “Earlier this year, the IFA secured €25m in additional funding for the new €10 per ewe sheep welfare scheme, which is a major boost to the sector.” He said this delivery involved a major national campaign over two years by IFA, culminating in securing the funding as part of the new Programme for Government.
Lamb price prospects
On lamb price prospects, John Lynskey said hogget numbers are now tightening rapidly with factories paying €5.20/kg and up to €5.25. He said spring lambs are making €6.10/6.20 with €6.25 to 21kgs paid. He said with hoggets numbers drying up, factories and retailers are looking at making the move over to new season lamb.
The IFA Sheep Farmers leader said the Muslim festival of Ramadan is much earlier this year and commences on May 27th. In addition, the Bord Bia main season promotions will kick in in early June providing a strong boost for the domestic market.
John Lynskey said IFA is working hard to alleviate the threat from Brexit to the sheep meat sector. He said IFA President Joe Healy has met with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the issue and also put the IFA case strongly to Commissioner Phil Hogan and Minister Michael Creed earlier this week at the IFA Brexit conference in Goffs. He said the big concerns on sheep relate to access to the UK market, the New Zealand quota as well as the CAP budget.
History of Roscommon Sheep
Limestone is the bedrock under much of the soil in Co Roscommon and is one of the factors which contribute to the high quality of our farm produce.
South Roscommon, in particular, is covered with dry stone [limestone] walls enclosing sheep pastures. In times past when wool was a valuable raw material, it was said that "dear wool and cheap labour built the big houses of Co Roscommon.
The Roscommon breed of sheep was exported all over the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to Argentina, Australia, England and was sought after for the quality of both its wool and its meat.
The county crest features a sheep's head along with the oak leaf and the crown, reflecting the importance of sheep farming to the county.
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