02 Jun, 2022

Advising us across the full spectrum of our business.

What would happen if you crossed a butcher with a sheep and beef farmer? The answer is Michael Heneghan of Ballinrobe, who is ideally positioned to comment on his industry from the perspective of both a producer and a retailer.

The sheep and beef farmer with a butcher’s business has a fully rounded view.

Few producers are as close to their end consumers as Michael Heneghan. Owner of Heneghan's Butchers and a sheep and beef farmer as well, he views his working life from two very different perspectives.

Michael started work in 1981, and in 2012, he took over the popular butcher’s shop in Ballinrobe which had operated since 1970. Along with his son, Mark, they bought out the shop completely in 2016, along with a few acres which are used for storing sheep and cattle. The associated abattoir is located a few miles out the road, and Mark is responsible for the weekly slaughtering of beef and lamb.

Apart from supplying the retail outlet, Michael and Mark have strong personal relationships with the local farmers and often kill an animal for them for the freezer.

In terms of where demand for lamb stands at present, Michael is pleased with its performance over the past eighteen months, and it’s holding its own as a profit centre. That’s not to say, however, that it doesn’t face a number of challenges. “There’s a perception out there that lamb is an expensive choice – something for a special occasion, perhaps. There’s always been a strong demand for lamb in the west of Ireland, whether for a Sunday roast or a leg of lamb midweek.”

ifac have been a partner to us for over three decades.

In terms of how the relationship with ifac has had a positive impact on the business, Michael explains that it all started back in 1992 when he brought them on board to handle his farm accounts.

“We’ve always been pleased with how ifac have considered themselves a partner rather than a supplier. They take a genuine interest in our business, and with so many of their staff coming from farming backgrounds, they really appreciate the unique challenges that the farming community faces.”

“We’re not like other businesses in terms of cash flow, capital investment, margins etc., and it’s reassuring to know that our accountants understand how we operate.”

“For much of the year, we may have little contact with them, but if an issue arises, it’s great to know that they’ll react quickly and that they’ll take our issue seriously.”

The biggest contribution that they make on a daily basis is that we have the peace of mind of knowing that all our statutory returns are taken care of on time. It’s one less headache for us, and it lets us concentrate on the things that we know best.”

Setting up the company structure to integrate our butcher’s business was part of the service that we’ve come to rely on.

ifac are much more important than simply being our day-to-day accountants.

“When we branched out into retailing, we faced a whole new trading model, and the advice we were receiving for our farming operations needed to be topped up with some ‘new smarts’.”

“While the move brought with it a new set of accountancy challenges.

it made sense that ifac would also advise us on the second string to our bow, and would also let us have an integrated view of our businesses.” 

“When we spoke to them about our proposed new venture, one of the first things they did was advise us on the optimal company structure  to integrate purchase of the butcher’s shop into our overall business.”

“This meant that we can operate as a single business from a big picture perspective, but we can also have a clear sight of how each wing of our operations is performing. Each of them has their own profit and performance expectations, and we can easily pinpoint how they are faring against their various goals.”

They speak to us in our own language – not theirs. 

We’ve got a partner to take us on to the next level – whatever that may be.

Looking to the foreseeable future, Michael envisages a very positive summer for the restaurant and BBQ markets, as people look to get back to some form of normality after the enforced lockdown of the past two years. 

“On the negative side, however, you’d have to be very concerned about the impact of Ukraine, along with the price of fertiliser that’s driving all prices upwards. The bottom line for us is that every ounce of a sheep is critical if you’re to get your money back – and that includes keeping your slaughtering costs as low as possible.”

But side-by-side with the threat that uncertainty always brings to the market Michael believes that the farm-to-fork movement is his biggest single opportunity over the coming years. “Some butchers don’t understand the economics of farming – but we do. We’re farmers at heart, and we know where the line lies between the farmer getting a return and the consumer getting value for money.”

“Ultimately, the consumer calls the shots and it’s really up to the retailer and the producer, working in tandem, to make sure that supply mirrors demand for cleaner, greener food choices that come with a local story built-in.”

“In the face of rising prices, quality and choice have to be higher than ever, and that’s where we believe that the battle can be won in the months and years to come. And with a partner like ifac on our side, we’re confident that we’ll be well placed to capitalise on any opportunities that come our way.”  

Donal Lynch
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Donal Lynch, Donal Lynch Veterinary
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