Two buyers for every lamb: challenges and opportunities in the sheep industry


Canada imports more than half the lamb it consumes, which spells opportunity for our sheep farmers, but that opportunity isn’t the easiest to capitalize on.

In the interview below, Marc Carere, vice chair of Ontario Sheep Farmers, talks to Shaun Haney about the tremendous amount of potential — but also incredible challenges —of this still-maturing industry.

Carere shares that Canadian demand is not just strong, it’s also increasing, unlike other protein categories, but only 42% of lamb demand is supplied locally. “There’s lots of room for growth; there really aren’t that many ag commodities that can say that.”

The lamb market is concentrated around large urban centres, with about 55% of all lamb processed in Canada processed in Ontario and then consumed mostly within the Greater Toronto Area.

What’s holding back sheep farmers from a major expansion, then? Carere says access to a predictable suite of business risk management tools, for one. These haven’t necessarily kept pace with the needs of the industry, with larger farms carrying greater financial commitments, he says. Underpinning all of this is the need for better data, as well. Producers first need to get a better handle on where the sheep industry is at, using production benchmarks, so they can manage what’s being measured and perhaps move beyond quantifying the industry by ewe number and instead begin to tally up tonnes of lamb, he says.

Listen to Shaun Haney and Marc Carere’s discussion below. This aired on the July 11 episode of RealAg Radio. 

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