Quality wool and quality products

12 Dec , 2016  

Kerry Lamb & Wool Co-Op offer an extensive range of veterinary products, wire, fencing posts, fertilizers and feeds while the export of wool is the cornerstone of their business. Irish Tractor & Agri magazine sat down with manager Séan Moriarty to find out the secrets of their success.

Kerry Lamb & Wool Co-Op commenced trading in January 1975 and manger Séan Moriarty has been a permanent fixture right from the beginning.
The last 41 years has seen much diversification but, under Sean’s shrewd management, they have never strayed too far from the Co-Operative ethos guided by their Committee of Management, some of whom have been involved since the formation.

Co-Ops are not about making big profits for shareholders, but creating value for customers and this is what gives them a unique character. They are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity and Kerry Lamb & Wool is no exception.

The Lispole based enterprise celebrated the landmark of 40 years in business in 2015 and boast a turnover in excess of €2m on the back of their wool export, veterinary products, wire, fencing posts, fertlizers and feeds business.

Also promoting the Irish language at every opportunity, by adopting a cost-orientated and quality driven approach from its foundation, Kerry Lamb & Wool has experienced organic growth and has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

“Originally, when the Co-Op was set up it’s main purpose was lamb fattening and bringing lambs up to factory weight,” recalled Séan Moriarty. “We got access to France shortly after that which was a huge boost in those early days because our lambs were ideally suited to the market in the south of France.

“We continued lamb fattening for eight to nine years but it then became uneconomical.”

To survive, Séan & Co diversified into veterinary products, fencing, wire and, crucially, developed an export market for the wool.

“We gradually began to look at other avenues,” Séan revealed, “one was wool and the other was servicing the needs of the sheep farmer. We had 350 shareholders at the beginning and today have a customer base of approximately 1200 farmers.

“We’ve kept up the ideal of the Co-Op as much as possible. Basically we always try to get the farmer the best possible price for his produce and sell him products as cheaply as possible. I think we’ve successfully embraced the ethos of the Co-Op.”

Kerry Lamb & Wool collects wool from sheep farmers all over Munster before exporting it to massive clearing houses in Bradford.

“Wool is the centre of our activity. We took time to look at adding value to our product and the next step was to wash the wool but there’s no commercial washing plant in this country.

“The next stop was the UK while we’ve also experienced a big demand for our wool in China as well. China deals mainly in the fine end of wool, the finer end of the market, which is suitable for knitwear etc. The larger percentage of the type of wool we produce is suitable for carpets and there is a big demand for that wool in the UK.”

Their customer base, while still continuing to grow, maintains a core of repeat customers. These clients continually return to source the quality products they have become accustomed to getting their hands on through their relationship with Kerry Lamb & Wool.

They pride themselves on the quality of their wool and the products they stock on their shelves. They rely on the word of their customers to maintain their reputation and to that end you will find Sean and the Co-Op’s five employees courteous at all times.

“We’re going along reasonably well, we have turnover in excess of €2m but like every business it’s tough out there at the moment. Costs are rising all the time and it’s difficult with all the hidden costs that are out there.

“Plus there’s new regulations coming out practically every day and while I’m all in favour of courses, they’re coming out of my ears at this stage!”

He continued: “Another worry I would have looking ahead to the future is the age profile of the people we’re dealing with. In the dry stock end of it, if you go into any mart any day of the week you’ll not see many young fellas there but dairy is different.

“Having said that, there will always be a need for wool and I would be confident about the Co-Op’s future because while there are sheep out in the fields there will always be a need for fencing.”

Grateful to all existing customers for their business and continued support to the Co-Op, Séan welcomes any potential new customers and is confident they will find their extensive range of products to their satisfaction.

Kerry Lamb & Wool Co-Op
Co Kerry

Tel: 066-9151112
Email: [email protected]

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 4 No 6, July/August 2016

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