FOCUSING on quality and taste are the main aims for lamb production for Rodney Balfour, from Letterbreen, just outside Enniskillen, on the family’s lowland sheep farm. Rodney took over the running of the family farm in 2017.
After researching sheep breeds Rodney realised the advantages of the Il de France breed of long carcase length, quality of meat and out of season breeding would suit his aim of providing year-round locally produced lamb for supply to local hotels and restaurants.
He also introduced some Ryeland sires which are a slower growing breed, breed out of season, fatten naturally on grass, and also provide a succulent flavoursome meat.
He planned lambing to take place 3-4 times a year. The first two years were spent building up the breeding ewes’ stock with Il de France and Ryeland crossbreeds.
Lamb production was increased with the aim to supply several local hotels, then Covid-19 struck! The hospitality industry closed and therefore Rodney’s intended market. An alternative had to be found and so Rodney opened a farm shop on the farm to sell his lamb directly to the public.
This was earlier than planned but looking back it was a good move to be forced into as more people wanted to shop local and know where their food came from during lockdown.
Mullygarry lambs are naturally fattened on grass only and slaughtered in the local meat plant when approximately 55-60kg. They are then dry aged and butchered locally and delivered back to the farm shop for sale to the public, either chilled or frozen. The cuts are larger due to the higher weight and the longer loin of the Il de France.
Keeping the work local, Rod-ney’s sister-in-law developed and maintains the website and Instagram pages for promoting and advertising stock.
An opening launch of the shop saw a large number of locals, friends and family attend, many tasting lamb for the first time. All gave positive feedback.
Doorstep deliveries are pro-vided as a convenient way for customers to receive their lamb. Orders can be placed via the website or email.
Since the launch of the shop Rodney has gone on to reseed fields with herbal ley to improve the grass feeding season, improve soil quality and reduce the need for fertilisers. The herbs also add more flavour to the meat.
Moving forward, Mullygarry Farm is currently developing other specialist lamb meat products which it hopes to bring to market in the near future.