Think skin when it comes to lamb

Tanners are urging farmers and processors to think of skin when it comes to lamb.

As the market for spring lamb moves towards Easter, the three remaining UK

sheepskin tanners are urging farmers, abattoirs and hide markets: "Think skin as

well as meat."

Potentially, British sheepskin products are the sheep industry's most valuable

by-products, but the recent decline in the quality of woolskins being passed to

the tannery industry is the most serious in living memory.

"Cheap sheepskins, arising from the flood of animals into abattoirs after last

year's foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue movement restrictions were lifted, may look like a bonanza for tanners - but noticeably poor skin handling, selection and preservation standards have meant that hundreds of thousands of sheepskins will have to be incinerated," said Andrew Tinnion, Real Sheepskin Association chairman.

"Standards must be addressed before the spring market gets into full flow," he

added. "This includes no longer telling farmers to close-shear the underbelly,

which causes rips or tears, or to mark the shorn skin with permanent dye markers

and the like. Both these practices damage the skins and render them unusable.

"After the skins are harvested, it is also essential that they are properly

salted before storage - otherwise they simply rot in transit," he added.

The Association recognises that the glut of animals pushed woolskin prices ex-

abattoir to their lowest level for 10 years - slumping to only 70p a skin in

autumn 2007.

"Despite the low source value, end customers still expect - and demand - the

high quality skins for which the UK is renowned," Mr Tinnion said. "Unusable raw

stock of low value is a disastrous loss to the whole sheep industry supply chain

- farmers, breeders, meat and skin markets as well as the wool and sheepskin

industries.

"We urge the meat and hide traders to make sure we get top-quality skins for

2008 and beyond."

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