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.

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.