Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Staffordshire young sheep farmer get involved with Love Lamb Week

Tom Chapman is one of the National Sheep Association’s Young Ambassadors for 2018. He has a
tenancy farm in Eccleshall in Staffordshire and is supporting this year’s Love Lamb Week.


My background is in dairy farming, but my grandad was a beef and lamb farmer which fuelled my interest to start working with sheep.I am very fortunate to be able to run a county council farm in Staffordshire and have set an ambitious five-year target to increase flock numbers from 400 Mules to a closed flock of 800 homebred composites. The National Sheep Association’s Young Ambassador scheme really appealed to me, as I wanted to meet other like-minded sheep farmers who are passionate about farming and enjoy it not just as a job but as a lifestyle.

Love Lamb Week is a promotional week that gives the sheep industry an opportunity to really promote messages about the great work sheep farmers do and the quality meat they produce. This year we’re looking at how to get consumers to break tradition and consume lamb all year round rather than just during special occasions. Lamb is so versatile and it can be so quick and easy to cook for a mid-week meal. I also want to shout about the sustainability of lamb and the fact that our countryside wouldn’t look the same without sheep in the landscape. By buying lamb consumers are helping us to support the countryside and sustain farming.

Inspiring the next generation of sheep farmers is really important to me as I feel I have a responsibility to teach those interested in farming all about it. There’s so many people today with a disconnection to food and how it’s produced. I hope to be able to take on an apprentice one-day to give them the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate to have. I also breed and train sheep dogs, which help me no end with the flock. I have about eleven working dogs, and I just couldn’t do it without them! They are part of what makes my job so great.



During the week itself, I have challenged myself to cook a lamb dish every night for my partner, as she is the one who cooks most of the time. I think she’s looking forward to it. I encourage all of those involved in the sheep industry to get involved with the campaign and download the logos and images from AHDB Beef & Lamb website to really show consumers how passionate we are about the lamb we produce.

For more information about the campaign, visit AHDB Beef & lamb and follow the story across social media by using #LoveLambWeek and #LoveLamb.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

How to control enzootic abortion in ewes with vaccination


Lis King, AHDB Sheep Scientist, discusses the measures farmers can put in place to proactively
control enzootic abortion in their flock.

Globally, there is an urgent need to slow the development of drug resistant bacteria in both human and veterinary medicines. The sheep industry has been tasked with reducing antibiotic use in three areas: new-born lambs, lameness and abortion. Sheep farmers can plan ahead, prevent disease occurring and protect their animals whilst doing their bit for the environment. All whilst saving time and money. A win for all.

The most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion is Enzootic Abortion of ewes (EAE) which is infectious and responsible for around 50 per cent of sheep abortions in the UK. Yet, it is preventable through a highly effective single vaccine which lasts the lifetime of the ewe.

EAE is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia abortus. Generally there are no symptoms, with the first sign being a premature stillborn lamb one to two weeks before the expected lambing date. However, the disease can also result in full-term stillborn or weak lambs and can affect litter mates to different degrees, for example; one can be dead and one alive.

Ewes that abort can contaminate pasture or bedding and the bacteria is then picked up by other ewes. Aborted ewes should be promptly isolated for at least three to four weeks with bedding, aborted material and dead lambs destroyed.



The cost of abortion is variable but estimates are around £85 per aborted ewe so any abortion should be thoroughly investigated. A simple laboratory test will diagnose EAE. Treatment with long-acting oxytetracycline antibiotic will reduce the risk of further abortions but should only be given once EAE is confirmed. If left untreated, infected ewes and surviving ewe lambs, are more than likely to abort in the next pregnancy. Once a flock has the disease it may persist in these carrier sheep.

It’s often thought that using antibiotics to treat abortion, without any diagnosis, is cheaper than vaccination. However, a one off vaccine, which equates to around £2-3 is less than the cost of repeated antibiotic treatments. So switching to vaccination to control enzootic abortion could put an end to whole-flock antibiotic treatment of ewes in late pregnancy. 

All ewes must be vaccinated at least four weeks before they go to the ram, as options to vaccinate in-lamb ewes can be limited. Three vaccines are currently available in the UK: MSD’s Enzovax, CEVA’s Chlamydia and Benchmark’s Mydiavac. If unsure, discuss with your vet about what would be most suitable for your flock. 



Any flock that buys in replacement ewes is at risk of introducing EAE and should vaccinate for prevention rather than risk the expense of disease. Together with robust biosecurity measures, changing to vaccination can reduce lamb losses, maximise ewe productivity across your flock and reduce antibiotic use. A win win situation!

For more information see the BRP manual, Reducing lamb losses for Better Returns or check out our infographic.



You can also follow the online conversation by using the hashtag #VaccinesWork from 8 September and get involved with helping the agricultural industry to reduce antibiotic usage. For more information, you can visit www.ruma.org.uk

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Preparing ewes and rams for tupping season

Katie Thorley, Senior Knowledge Transfer Manager, gives advice around ensuring your ewes are fit for going to the ram in terms of body condition score, as well as suggesting how rams should be prepared for the tupping season.

October is not far away and this is traditionally the start of the main tupping period. You need to ensure your ewes are fit for going to the ram, so it is important to body condition score (BCS) all breeding ewes. Ensuring ewes are on target for the system is more important than ever after a tough year. Go through your ewes and separate into three groups, lean, fit and fat. The lean ewes are those which need priority grazing, supplementary forage or concentrates to get them back in condition to go to the ram. It takes six to eight weeks on good quality grazing to put on one BCS. If they go to the ram lean this could lead to issues throughout the pregnancy and reduced lamb performance. We have been running some body condition scoring workshops - visit the events area of our website to find a workshop near you.


Reduced grass growth this year may have forced you to feed some of your winter feed stocks already, so now is the time to consider your feed options. Calculate your feed requirements to get you through a normal winter with your number of stock. Have you made enough silage? Measure the clamp to work out the amount of silage made and count the number of bales. If you think you will have a shortfall you need to consider your options now. Could you add an additional feed to bulk out the forage, such as potatoes. Could you plant some brassica crops? Consider the best options for your area and system - planning now will save a lot of worry and stress throughout the winter.

Research suggests that feeding ewes a diet high in protein and energy in the weeks leading up to tupping (also known as flushing) will achieve higher scanning percentages. However, it depends a lot on the ewe’s current body condition. Flushing has the biggest impact on ewes between BCS 2 and 4. Trial work has found that flushing ewes at BCS 4 or above did not improve conception rate and flushing ewes at below BCS 2 had no effect on scanning results. In terms of tupping, make sure at least 90 per cent of the flock is at target BCS to optimise flock performance. Thin ewes ovulate fewer eggs and are likely to have fewer lambs. Fat ewes will ovulate more than thin ewes, however higher embryonic death rates may result in lower scanning for ewes that are in too good condition.



In terms of checking your rams, the best way to do this is to carry out a ram MOT, ideally 10 weeks before tupping. It is important that you consider the five t’s (toes, teeth, testicles, tone and treat). You should consider a high-quality protein feed and purchase your rams well in advance of the breeding season, so you can quarantine them for the minimum time of three weeks and allow them to adjust to your system. A fertile, mature ram should be able to successfully inseminate 85 per cent of a batch of 60 ewes in their first reproductive cycle. Ram lambs should be able to get 85 per cent of 40 ewes pregnant after one mating. If these targets are reached, the ram cost per lamb is optimised and the lambing period will be better controlled. 



For more information on how to ensure both ewes and rams are in good condition for breeding take a look at the BRP manual Managing ewes for Better Returns and the Ram MOT leaflet.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Mastitis concern raised at Challenge Sheep discussion groups

Over the Summer, the second round of Challenge Sheep discussion groups have been held on the 12 participating farms, focussing on the data collected after the 2018 lambing season. Following a poor spring, attendees across the groups have reported a noticeable rise in cases of Mastitis. Dr Liz Genever discusses why this may have happened and what farmers should be doing to address the rise, ahead of tupping.


We’ve just finished running all of our Challenge Sheep discussion groups and have had a reoccurring topic across all events with attendees. Mastitis and sore teats have been common this year, in both replacements that we are following for the project but also the wider flock too.

This year’s weather is likely to have had an impact on mastitis. The cold and slow spring, which led to poor nutrition for ewes may have reduced milk yields, leaving lambs to damage the udders when trying to get the milk out. As a result, infections are then common in teats or in the udder. If ewes are cold, wet and hungry, they are more likely to be susceptible to infection.

At the groups, there was a lot of talk about mastitis in ewes with older lambs. This could be due to reduced milk yields from lack of forage supplies, with lambs still demanding milk and therefore damaging udders. In some cases this leads to mastitis.

Udder with acute mastitis

As we know, mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland, usually caused by bacterial infection. But we don’t always think about it as an infectious disease, similar to lameness. Lumps that are felt inside udders are normally abscesses and can vary in size. The abscesses can burst and re-infect the udders, meaning lambs can then spread the infection by cross suckling. If the ewe’s udders are sore, cross suckling is more likely to increase as she will knock the lambs off.

With the current weather conditions reducing grass and forage supplies on farms around the country, it is crucial that only productive breeding animals remain in the flock this autumn. It’s now the time of year that ewe’s udders will be examined generally once they have dried off and before they head towards tupping.

After the bad spring and with farmers noticing a rise in mastitis, it’s is likely that harder culling on udders may be needed. This is justified due to the need to prioritise resources for your best ewes.

Previous research has shown that lambs from ewes with lumps in the udder grow slower, which can have an impact financially. There is also research to suggest that ewes with lumps are at a greater risk of developing mastitis in the next lactation.

Estimates suggest that mastitis costs the UK sheep industry more than £120 million per year in direct and indirect costs. It is ranked as one of the most important diseases affecting ewes. For this reason, farmers should be assessing udders now ahead of tupping and making the best decisions for their flock.

There is more information about tackling mastitis here in the Better Returns Plus – Understanding mastitis in sheep document. https://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/BRP-plus-Understanding-mastitis-in-sheep-180716.pdf

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Advice on managing grass and forage stocks

Liz Genever, AHDB Beef & Lamb Senior Scientist, looks at the current weather conditions and suggests ways in which farmers can tackle some of the difficult decisions that will need to made over the coming weeks and months.



The extreme weather we have experienced this year has made for a challenging 2018 so far. The very dry weather over the past few weeks has meant grass growth has been way below average for the time of year, with AHDB’s Forage for Knowledge weekly grass monitoring reporting growth of
21.2kg DM/ha across contributor farms at the end of July, compared to 59.5kg DM/ha recorded at the end of July 2017.

The lack of grass growth has meant farmers are having to feed animals with winter feed stock which will affect supplies later in the year. This issue is further compounded because the bad weather earlier in the spring has impacted silage yields, with most farmers able to get an ok first cut, some may have got a second cut but that’s about it. Farmers should look at options for late silage, including the use of additives and testing nitrogen levels in standing crops so they can get a decent third cut. More information on making grass silage can be found in the BRP manual Making Grass silage for Better Returns.

Farmers should consider creating their winter feed budget now so they can get a handle on how much feed they will need in the coming months going in to the winter period, how much they will have and plan strategies to cope with the deficit.

The BRP manual Planning grazing strategies for Better Returns includes calculations for assessing available forage stocks and is a good place to start when assessing what is available on farm. There is also a feed budget calculator, available online, to help you plan the feed you have and will need.

Once you have identified the deficit you can plan on how to manage it. It may be that top-up purchases are required and you may have to feed more supplements than usual. It is a good idea to look at your flock or herd closely and identify the most productive animals. Consider selling or culling unproductive stock so that the limited resources can be allocated to the best-performing animals.

Livestock performance may have suffered too, so keep an eye on body condition score of ewes in the lead up to tupping, as well as cows, and consider weaning thin cows early. For more information on BCS see Managing ewes for Better Returns and Optimising suckler herd fertility for Better Returns.


If you usually house stock in winter, consider whether outwintering on a forage crop or sacrifice fields is in an option. This will depend on conditions on your farm as crops will need to sown in the next few weeks if being used for winter feed. The BRP manual Using Brassicas for Better Returns can help you plan the use of brassicas.

If this is not an option, look at different options for bedding in preparation for a straw shortage and also be prepared that if straw is in short supply, it may not be an option to bulk out a total mixed ration (TMR). Make sure ventilation is optimum and that drainage in yards is adequate to reduce the need for straw. We have videos on assessing calf buildings and assessing ventilation that can help you identify where imporvements can be made. Further information can be found in the BRP+ documents Better calf housing and BRP+ Better cattle housing design.

Contingency plans will have financial implications, whether it’s buying in extra feed or having to sell animals early which may mean not getting as good a price as you might expect. The key is to start planning now and finding the option that best-suits your business.

AHDB has a created a drought hub where farmers can find the latest guidance on managing the effects of heat stress and drought, including the latest insight from the market intelligence team.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Top London chef talks about the importance of the link between food and farming


Gemma Pamment, AHDB Marcomms Executive (Beef & Lamb) attended a filming day that was part of the Quality Standard Mark’s (QSM) ‘Off the block series’ of chef films. She went to see how the series of short films is helping to promote the QSM to the foodservice industry.

Part of my role at AHDB is to work with Karl Pendlebury, QSM Senior manager, to plan how we can promote QSM activity to our range of stakeholders. The ‘off the block' series of short films was born from an idea that was started in America. The American Pork industry wanted to showcase top chefs’ skills and knowledge to foodservice businesses so created a series of films called ‘Pork Uncut’. Karl saw these had gained popularity across social media and believed we could create our own suite of films to inspire chefs and future generations of chefs to cook with QSM beef and lamb in the UK.

Last week, the AHDB digital team and Karl went to London to film three chefs: Jesse Dunford Wood and Dipna Anand in central London and Dominic Chapman, who’s based in Berkshire. All added their own unique style and personality to the film, but all shared the same message: the importance of provenance, not only for them as chef but also to communicate the story of the dish to the consumer.

I attended the filming day on 11 July, where we met Jesse Dunford Wood, chef and owner of Parlour in Regent Street. It was refreshing to see that he was so passionate about provenance, understanding the raw ingredients and the quality of food he serve to his customers. 




He created three beef and lamb dishes; steak tartare, cow pie and rolled lamb breast. All ingredients were locally-sourced and Jesse spoke with enthusiasm about how, as a chef, he has a responsibility for ensuring his customers not only have an enjoyable time at his restaurant but also appreciate the quality of the food. He made the point around how important it is for chefs to pass on essential skills such as being able to identify where certain cuts are from and being able utilise a whole carcase.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sample some of his creations – and they certainly did not disappoint. The dishes were all packed with flavour and looked stunning. Jesse really did an amazing job highlighting the full potential of QSM beef and lamb and utilising the cuts from the whole carcase. 


There are plans to film with more chefs across the country. The films demonstrate the passion and excitement the chefs have for food and the importance of ensuring that the beef and lamb they source is of top quality. The main message I took away from the filming was that it is very important for chefs to have that appreciation of farming and understand the story from farm to fork.

The short films will be added to the QSM website in coming weeks. Stay connected to our Twitter and Facebook pages for more updates.

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.