Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Meat masterclass course – getting to grips with the complexities of the beef and lamb supply chain


We are running our sixth meat masterclass this summer. Siobhan Slayven, AHDB Supply Chain Development Manager gives us an insight into what the course will cover and why learning about meat quality is important for the whole supply chain.

We’ll be running a two-day course over two dates this summer; 24-25 July and 31 July-1 August in Ettington, Warwickshire. During the course, delegates will cover a range of topics that look at the factors, which can affect red meat quality, including how to measure quality.

The course has proved popular across the industry with processors through to butchers. It is available to all our levy payers but is ultimately for those who work with red meat on a daily basis and need to understand the importance of quality and how this impacts upon the supply chain. 





We will look at beef and lamb quality from farm to fork and see the different stages at which quality can be compromised. I really want to encourage people to ask as many questions as possible so that all can get the most out of their time with us – it’s an opportunity not only to learn more about our industry but also a great chance for networking across the supply chain.

You will be able to find out more about what AHDB can do for you and gain some great insight from experts in the field. There will be a number of speakers from AHDB talking and giving butchery demonstrations throughout the course. Matt Southam, Head of Retail and Foodservice engagement, and Martin Eccles, Trade Marketing Executive will carry out a practical demonstration highlighting the way in which butchery can influence quality. Awal Fuseini, Halal Manager, will talk about the impact of welfare during slaughter for the halal market. We will also hear from Karl Pendlebury, Quality Standard Mark Senior Manager, who will focus on the importance of quality assurance for the end consumer.

The cost of the course is £150 per delegate and this includes overnight accommodation, all meals and conference material. It will run from 10am until 3pm the following day. 



If you would like to book your place, please contact beeflamb.supplychain@ahdb.org.uk and state your preferred date. Places are on a first come, first served basis.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

How farmers can limit anthelmintic resistance


Nerys Wright, Knowledge Exchange Manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb talks about the recent confirmation of the first case of resistance to Monepantel (Zolvix™) in the UK and the importance of ensuring that best practice is followed when administering wormers to sheep.

We have been using anthelmintics (wormers) for decades for worm control on our sheep farms. However, the worms are evolving and becoming capable of surviving a wormer dose that previously would have eradicated them. Over a period of time, these anthelmintic-resistant worms multiply and can cause poor lamb growth rates and sometimes lamb deaths.

Recent news confirms that Montepantel, a recent addition to the family of wormers, now has parasites that are resistant to it. It is therefore a timely reminder for farmers about the importance of following best practice advice.

Prior to 2010, there were three main types of wormers 1-BZ, 2-LV and 3-ML groups, all with a different mechanism of killing the worms. The introduction of group 4-AD in 2010 closely followed by 5-SI in 2012 provided the sheep industry with two new groups that would firstly prolong the life of the other groups and also provide new options for farms with resistance issues to the older three groups. It is when farmers rely almost exclusively on one wormer group combined with moving sheep to low challenge pasture (ground that has had any recent break from young lambs or lactating ewes) that the selection pressure leads to worms developing resistance quicker.

We support an industry body called Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) that represents the interests of the sheep industry. It recognises that, left unchecked, anthelmintic resistance is one of the biggest challenges to the future health and profitability of the UK sheep industry.



The SCOPS website gives some great advice on how to reduce anthelmintic resistance:

  •  Wormer groups 4-AD and 5-SI should be incorporated into worm control programmes on all sheep farms, their real value is in prolonging the life of the older 1-BZ, 2-LV and 3-ML groups
     
  •  A Group 4-AD or 5-SI wormer should ONLY be used as a quarantine drench on incoming animals and during mid/late season as a ‘one off’ annual drench for lambs. Use at other times should only be done under veterinary direction and only if the full anthelmintic resistance status of the farm is known.
     
  • Effectiveness of products used should be monitored carefully. Speak to your vet or a suitably qualified person (SQP) about how you can do this
  • If you are moving sheep to low challenge pasture after treatment, they must be left on dirty pasture for four to five days prior to moving or you should leave 10 per cent untreated. This is because if you dose and immediately move to a low challenge field, the only worms that will be taken are resistant ones (within the sheep). They will not have any breeding competition from a susceptible worm population. Turning them back to the ‘dirty’ pasture to pick up some susceptible worms or leaving 10 per cent of animals untreated will allow for the resistant worms to mix with the susceptible worms and the speed at which resistance will develop can be reduced. 


It is vital farmers treat their flock correctly with wormers. Best practice must always be followed:
  • Ensure the correct dose rate – dose to the heaviest in the group
  • Calibrate the gun and administer correctly, over the back of the tongue or into correct site if using an injection
  • Know how well wormers are working on your farm and only administer a wormer when it is necessary. 
For more information, please read the BRP manual Worm control in sheep for Better Returns and visit the SCOPS website

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Consumer marketing update


Gareth Renowden, Senior Consumer Marketing Manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb, talks about AHDB’s strategy in relation to our beef and lamb consumer marketing campaigns and how our year-round marketing activity aims to put beef and lamb on dinner plates across the UK.

We’ve seen a rise over the last few years of news stories undermining the nutritional benefits of red meat which, combined with the rise of veganism and flexitarianism, has almost certainly led to people eating fewer meals containing meat. As a result, it’s a constant challenge to maintain public perception of red meat as easy to cook, tasty and an important part of a healthy balanced diet.

Our strategy sets clear objectives around promoting beef and lamb to consumers and we have a busy year-round calendar of marketing campaigns to encourage beef and lamb consumption.

Our campaigns are always well-researched to ensure we reach our target market. Our dedicated consumer insights team carry out thorough market research to ensure we are targeting the right audience with the correct messages to encourage a change in behaviour.

For beef, our research shows that we need to increase consumer confidence and satisfaction while reducing barriers to purchase, such as not knowing how to cook certain cuts, and thinking it is unhealthy. We also know that those who regularly buy lamb are aged over 55, so our activity needs to increase the volume and frequency of lamb sales to younger consumers, demonstrating how versatile and easy it is to cook with.




All our marketing activities focus on a defined audience, which allows us to be very specific in the messaging and tone that we use. Our current campaigns are targeting consumers aged approximately between 20 and 35, or ‘millennials’ to give them their generational tag. Our research has shown that this age group is not watching as much traditional television, so using this form of advertising would not be effective, therefore we are focusing on other channels such as online advertising.

Because of our targeted approach, our marketing activity will not always be seen by all stakeholders. If the advert is targeting millennial consumers through the Simply Beef & Lamb Instagram channel, for example, the majority of farmers will be unlikely to come across it. For that reason, I work closely with our levy payer communications team to make sure we use the available channels to talk about this activity, such as the BRP bulletin, our Twitter account and our monthly e-news.

To find out more about our consumer marketing activity check out the marketing page of our website. You can get involved by sharing materials that are produced for the campaigns through your own social media channels, or sharing images of you creating our recipes. We really need the whole industry to be behind us in promoting the quality and provenance of beef and lamb produced in the UK.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Update on the beef feed Efficiency Programme


In this blog, Natalie Cormack, Beef Feed Efficiency Programme Manager, 
introduces one of the new farms that recently joined the project and takes a look at what they are doing, as well as some of the preliminary results. 

Watson Swinbank is an arable and beef producer at Greystones Farm in North Yorkshire and is one of the four farms involved in the Beef Feed Efficiency Programme across Great Britain. The four-year Defra and AHDB-funded programme is partnering with Scottish government and SRUC to demonstrate how feed efficiency traits can be measured and selected for in beef cattle in a UK commercial environment, illustrating how the most efficient cattle can eat less than others but grow at the same rate. This will provide significant opportunities for beef producers to cut the cost of production; as well as the development of an Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) that will enable on-going selection of more efficient cattle.




Greystones Farm has capacity to record more than 60 animals in each batch, which lasts for 93 days including an acclimatisation period of four weeks. By the end of 2018, Greystones will have collected feed intake data on 240 animals. Individual feed intake is recorded using special equipment imported from Alberta in Canada. Watson sources animals that meet a set of criteria to include Limousin-cross steers by a known sire of similar age group. Once off trial, Watson finishes the steers and the carcase information is also included in the genetic evaluation. While on trial the steers are weighed weekly, scanned at beginning and end, and DNA sampled. Watson also records the dry matter of the ration.

The first batch of 61 Limousin crossbred steers finished its data collection period in early spring. This batch contained calves from 10 different sires and they came from eight breeding herds across the north of England. The batch had an age span of 120 days and were no older than 14 months when they finished their trial period. The batch performed well while on test, averaging 1.25kg/hd/day, eating a forage-based ration formulated to be of similar quality across all four farms.

Preliminary results

Preliminary analysis of the first batch of data from Greystones Farm looks comparable with our earlier results. The graph below shows there is considerable variation between the sire groups in the batch in relation to both liveweight gain and intake. The two red-circled points on the graph show the difference in intake between two sire groups that grew at a similar rate over the trial period. The red-circled point on the right represents progeny from one sire that ate 8kg of dry matter per day per head to achieve a growth rate of 1.2 kg/day, while the point on the left represents a sire group that ate only 6.9kg dry matter per head per day to achieve the same growth rate. In general, sires with progeny that exhibit lower intakes with similar growth rates will be seen in the upper left quadrant of the graph.

 


As the Defra funded phase of the programme concludes in 2019, the project team are currently discussing options for progressing this work with industry stakeholders to extend the benefits of the investment and learning across the industry.

To find out more about the project, visit the research area of the AHDB Beef & Lamb website: http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/research/genetic-selection/genetic-selection-beef/beef-feed-efficiency-programme/ and keep an eye on the beef and lamb matters blog for Beef Feed Efficiency updates.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

April update - Strategic Farm Yorkshire

At the end of March, Yorkshire based Strategic Farmer, Guy Prudom updated us on how the farm had coped with the turbulent winter weather in the lead up to calving. Now Guy has nearly finished calving, he looks back at surprise weather conditions in April and how calving has gone this year.


The weather situation is not helping at the moment in mid-April. However I know that I am in an awfully better position than most, with ample silage, but a rapidly diminishing pile of straw up at the two upland farms where the suckler cows reside. Thankfully High Burrows Farm is an ex-dairy unit so the cows there are on cubicles. It just gets a bit messy when calving starts as everything has to go through the calving pens for 24 hrs to get matched up. Then into a straw yard for a few days, before going out to the great wide world.

With the constantly high humidity, the straw that is put out into the sheds only seems to last half a day. The few cows and calves that we have got out are thriving, which defies belief. I think by early April we have managed to get 35 – 40 cow with calves outside. This has certainly eased the housing situation somewhat, although by the beginning of April a scour problem was starting to rear its ugly head in the sheds. Treatment went along the lines of rehydration therapy and if the calf didn’t respond we administered an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Even so we have lost a few calves to scour which is so infuriating. There also seems to be no pattern to which calf is affected and which calf survives.


Both dad and I are very nervous about turning out anymore, just in case the weather does turn. The ground is still so wet underfoot, that it will not take a lot more water to make things very messy. 23rd of April saw dad and I weighing, vaccinating and bolusing the bulling heifers. The vaccines cover the cows for BVD, leptospirosis and IBR. The bolus is for trace elements mainly copper and selenium which have caused major problems in the past regarding fertility.


The last 10 days of April have seen a remarkable turn around in soil conditions and grass growth. From the ground barely being dry enough to drive on with a tractor on the 19th April, to spring barley and spring beans being by the 26th April. Cows and calf pairs are being let out on a daily basis now as grass growth has speeded up, with only the weaker calves being kept back, the result of the scour outbreak. We even managed to get 23 store heifers turned out to grass, only another 40 or so of them to move to Davison. This must be one of the first years I have managed to get them weighed before turnout.

In the past, I generally have about 10 to 15 cows left to calve at the end of April. This year 25 cows left to calve. At the moment I can’t find a reason for it either. The cows are all from different batches, they all had plenty of grass in front of them and the bulls (all bar one) were fertility tested.
So this year I am going overboard as per usual in giving the cows and bulls a   mineral tub containing orvec stimulus as well as phosphorus, copper, manganese and zinc a month prior to turning in the bulls and also at service. This should make sure the cows are ovulating and help improve conception rates.



We have just had some soil testing/ mapping done for us on some of the arable land. Two of the fields in question are growing red clover, so when we apply P and K for the second cut we will now be able to use variable rate application. In Pedica, which dad has owned for a lot of years, the variation in pH, phosphate and potash across the field is quite remarkable. Although I doubt we will save money, we will be able to target the areas that are quite deficient in lime, P and K. Whilst they were here I also got them to divide up a couple of fields at Davison Farm. This will make it a lot easier when I move forward to splitting them into equal sized grazing paddocks.

Might even get out with the plate meter and start measuring grass in the next few weeks as the work load eases off a little and there is some grass to measure!



Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Nematodirus risk forecast 2018

The gutworm Nematodirus battus, a roundworm that causes diarrhoea in young lambs between 6 and 12 weeks of age, can cause mortalities and stunt the growth of many lambs during the spring and summer months.

Eggs are deposited on pasture by lambs the previous year and hatch the following spring. Cold weather delays hatching so when we get a sudden change in temperature it can trigger a mass hatch. The changeable temperatures that we are currently experiencing in the UK can make predicting when Nematodirus eggs are going to hatch into infective larvae very difficult.

To help producers to plan preventative treatment, SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) has launched its Nematodirus risk forecast for 2018 which predicts the hatch date for Nematodirus based on temperature data from 140 weather stations throughout the UK. Sheep farmers, vets and advisers can use this invaluable tool to assess the local risk of the parasite.

An interactive map with a traffic light system of warnings will be updated daily this spring and summer, alongside practical advice. Find out the risk forecast for your area by visiting the SCOPS website.


More information on worm control can be found in our manual Worm control in sheep for Better Returns

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Update from Yorkshire Strategic Farm

Following the launch of our network of our Farm Excellence Strategic Farms in September 2017,
we’ve caught up with Yorkshire based Guy Prudom to find out how the last few months have been and what challenges he’s faced. 

We hosted our first meeting at Northfields Farm just before Christmas on a very wet, snowy and blustery morning. I gave an overview of how the farm has developed from the 380 acre rented unit my father took on with 90 suckler cows, to the 1000 acre and 200 suckler cow farm that it is now. It’s not too bad but, when the weather is against you and you’ve not had enough sleep during calving, it can often seem like a challenge.

In early January, the team from AHDB and myself sat down to work out our key performance indicators (KPIs) for the project. These included:

1. Increasing the quality and utilisation of grass grown

2. Increasing cow output, including calves born and reared

3. Improving genetics of heifers to become a multiplier for the breed to increase output value

I also spent time in January getting to grips with my benchmarking figures for Farmbench. Note to myself: go through the VAT accounts at the end of every month and allocate to each enterprise. Something I tell myself to do, but fail miserably at. Thankfully, I’d kept records of our suckler herd output, so I have managed to crack it and it is been very rewarding to see calf mortality figures dropping and output per cow increasing.

February is vaccination month for the suckler cows. Mid-February we vaccinate the entire herd for leptospirosis, bolus the herd for trace element deficiencies and use closamectin pour-on wormer to reduce the risk of liver fluke and other worms. In the past we’ve vaccinated to protect against rotavirus, but this is quite expensive. So this year I looked back through last year’s calving records and only vaccinated the cows that calved in the first six weeks. This has been fairly stress free due to improving the cattle race by installing a backing gate.

We normally start calving around 7th March but not this year. Things started badly with a heifer calving a month prematurely, losing a cow and calf due to infection and then another calf that just did not want to live. A bad start to the calving season, coupled with the bad weather made things seem very depressing.

With the inclement weather we decided to split a shed using crash barriers, so if the wet weather was to continue at least we could have somewhere to put cows and calves under cover. As it happened this has worked really well.

Cows calved in ones and twos up until about 14th March when we got going with 4 – 6 cows and heifers calving a day. This makes life a lot easier as you get into a routine of going around the two farms where we are calving four times a day. 



The first cows and calves went out on about the 20th March onto some fairly plain wet fields. Rule of thumb is that they need 24 hours of dry weather outside and then they can cope with most conditions after that. It is amazing to go around them following 12 or 24 hours of continuous rain, sleet and snow and find them sheltered under hedges and behind stone walls quite content and warm.

Hopefully, by mid to late April I’ll be able to get out of the calving pens and start to look at the pastures. Thankfully, when I brought the cows in for winter there was still a good covering of grass. This has been my saving grace this spring as the cows have something to eat.

The beginning of March saw me taking stock of our silage and straw situation. Thankfully, we have more than enough silage but straw, on the other hand, was a different matter. An expensive phone call later to our straw merchant saw several wagonloads delivered.

Looking at the heap I had purchased and given several comments from senior management I thought I had over done things again. Sat writing this in mid-April I wished I had bought a bit more!

Our network of Strategic Farms will be holding meetings in the summer months and will be announced shortly. To keep up to date visit beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/events