Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Helping the industry to be experts in stock selection

Steve Powdrill, National Livestock Selection Specialist, has been in the agricultural industry for more than 40 years. This blog looks at how AHDB Beef & Lamb are helping livestock producers to increase the number of animals meeting supplier specifications.

In 2015 45 per cent of lambs and 48 per cent of cattle failed to meet target specification for fat or carcase conformation. With processors focused on fulfilling customer requirements, animals that are not meeting specification are having a significant impact on producer profitability.

This is why AHDB Beef & Lamb are focusing heavily on helping livestock producers to meet processor specification by running events and promoting messages. As part of this, we run a number of ‘Live to Dead’ events across the country that aim to give those involved in agriculture an insight into how best to select and judge livestock that are ready for slaughter.



Each workshop is extremely hands-on and is run by us in conjunction with MLC Services Ltd. Attendees are given the opportunity to handle live animals to assess fat cover and conformation, but also see them post-slaughter so classifications can be compared and contrasted. All events are accompanied by a discussion around factors affecting killing out percentages and dressing specifications.
Earlier in the year we also recruited a team of selection specialists. Based across the country, the team are available to give selection talks and demonstrations to beef and lamb producer and stakeholder groups. You can view the specialist in your area by visiting the selection area of the AHDB Beef & Lamb website.
So far, the team has been involved with 13 selection sessions, and this includes delivering events to agricultural students, new staff members at AHDB and other similar organisations, as well as a number of livestock producers.

We also produce a range of publications to help producers meet target specification and deliver what consumers want.

By holding the events and promoting the specification message, we’re aiming to increase numbers of livestock meeting specification that will result in improved returns to producers and an industry focused on consumer requirements, which is a key objective in creating a profitable and resilient industry.


Visit our website to find a range of selection publications. You can also book onto our ‘Live to Dead’ events through our events page.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Are SQQ weight bands still fit for purpose?


Jo Tuck, Head of Data and Analysis, in our Market Intelligence Team, writes about our consultation on prime lamb price reporting and why we are looking for representatives from the sheep industry to share their views on whether the most frequently used price measure for prime lambs, the Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ),should be amended.

Following on from producer and industry feedback AHDB feels it is time to look into Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) weight bands and see whether they should be amended to bring them in line with current market conditions. The way we produce lamb has changed from when the original weight bands were set and now is the right time for an industry-wide consultation. The SQQ is an average price for lambs marketed within predefined weight bands and has been used consistently over many years. It is also used as an indication of the ‘target range’ for marketing lambs.


In spring 2017, we talked to a number of auction markets and processors, who offered a range of opinions, with the majority of them suggesting that the SQQ weight bands should be changed. Following this, we have teamed up with experts from Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales and Quality Meat Scotland to get a wider breadth of opinions and industry expertise from across the UK.



It is now your chance to share your opinion as to whether you think the SQQ is still fit for purpose. By filling out our survey, you can share your views on the current system, as well as how you feel it could be changed. The short survey asks you to rank three auction market weight bands from; no change, removing the ‘light weight’ band or redefining all weight bands. Results of the survey will allow us to make a decision on the future of the weight bands that works for our levy payers.


You will be able to take part in the survey until 31 December 2017 and the feedback will then be analysed. Results will be available in the New Year and if changes are needed, the changes will be implemented in spring 2018.

For more information on the consultation and to complete the survey visit our website

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A farmers’ view of Strategic Farms


Elbridge Farm in Kent is home to Verity Garrett and the Holdstock family. Recently joining the Strategic Farm initiative, the farm holds 230 pedigree sussex breeding cows plus followers and 200 Romney x ewes. Verity explains why she wanted to become one of the Strategic Farms and share advice for the younger generation of farmers.

1. How long have you been working on the family farm?

I grew up on the farm and so from that point of view I have always been involved in farming, but I have actively been working back on the farm for 4 years. Before that I was working for Tesco as a Technical manager in their fresh produce sourcing team following a degree in Agri-business management at Newcastle University.

2. What attracted you to the Strategic Farm initiative?

I saw it as a great opportunity to really look into both our ways of working and expenditure in the livestock arm of the business. It is a fantastic chance to have access to industry expertise and is a great learning platform from both leaders in the industry and the fellow farms involved in the study. I have been conscious for a while that as a farming business we do limited benchmarking and I know it can be a really useful exercise. I also like the fact that the initiative covers both cattle and sheep, as we have only just taken on sheep as part of the farm business.


3. What do you hope to gain from being a Strategic Farm?

I hope that by taking part we will be able to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie and have full transparency of the profitability of the business. Farming a native breed of cattle means our carcase gradings would not be as consistently as high as the continental breeds, but then I also know our inputs and concentrate feed levels will be lower. Therefore it will be interesting to be benchmarked against the other farm types and breeds involved.I am also really interested in the genetics behind the carcase grading, and I am looking to improve our grassland management too.

4. What do you love most about your job?

I love that no two days are the same and working outside on the farm is the best office you can ask for! Working with animals always throws up daily challenges – but I love it and get a huge amount of satisfaction from them especially during calving and lambing.


5. What advice would you give for those just starting out in their careers in agriculture?

There is such a huge range of careers both linked to agriculture and directly in agriculture. The average age of farmers is ever increasing which should be seen as a concern for the industry but also as a great opportunity for young keen people to work in agriculture. People need to be aware that it’s not glamorous or easy, but it’s a fantastic industry with a huge amount of knowledgeable people to learn from.

You can find more about the Strategic Farm project on our website, or follow #StrategicFarms on Twitter.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Meat testing is key to determine consumer needs

Consumer research is essential in helping us to make informed decisions here at AHDB Beef & Lamb. Understanding consumers’ preferences of beef and lamb allows us to feedback to the supply chain and ultimately our levy payers who work to produce the perfect product for consumers worldwide. Here Siobhan Slayven, Supply Chain Development Manager, talks about the latest activity, which is helping us assess consumers’ perception of meat quality

AHDB Beef & Lamb has been working with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to understand more about the Meat Standards Australia programme (MSA), which aims to improve the eating quality of beef meat. The MSA programme is based on over 100,000 consumer taste tests and almost 700,000 samples, giving a huge database of information.




Working with the guidance of MLA, we’ve now started to carry out our own trials on beef eating quality to see what we can learn from our consumers. This month we ran some of the first beef tasting trials in three different locations. Participants were asked to sample a variety of beef cuts, which ranged from forequarter cuts to more premium steak cuts. Testers rated the different cuts of meat based on various qualities such as tenderness, juiciness and flavour, along with their perceived quality of the meat and importantly willingness to pay.



The testing was conducted under controlled conditions in individual booths, with each tester being served a different cut, so they would not be testing the same sample as the person that sat next to them. Once all cuts had been rated, participants were asked how much they would pay for an unsatisfactory steak through to a premium steak.



Assessing meat eating quality is really important to help reduce inconsistencies with meat and highlight areas which can be improved. Since the MSA launch, the programme has not only shown an improvement in the eating quality for consumers but has provided financial benefits to producers due to increased premiums for MSA-graded produce. A number of retailer in Australia are also on board, with around 155 Australian brands introducing on-pack labelling.




Working with MLA has provided us with a great opportunity to look at how determine meat eating quality in the UK and raised ideas as to how we could learn from the programmes results.  

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

How do you measure your social media performance? Part 5

In the fifth and final blog from the AHDB social media team, Kate Nolan-Burgess looks at how you can measure your social media presence.

Our series of social media blogs have covered  of how social media can improve your business, which social media platform is best for your business and what content should work well for your audience. But once you’ve put in the work creating content, how do you measure your performance.
Being active on Facebook and Twitter is great, but the only way to know you’re being successful with your activity is to measure your performance. In order to fully harness the power of social media, you should pay attention to some of the key metrics. Here are the top three areas you should be focusing on:
  •         Follower count – This could be the number of followers on Twitter and Instagram and number of likes on a Facebook page. Creating brand awareness is one of the biggest top-level goals marketers have. You shouldn’t focus purely on the size of your following, but look at the quality of your followers and how many interact with you.

  •          Engagement – This is the number one area that you should be concerned with on social media. Simply put, engagement measures the amount of likes, shares, and comments that your social updates receive. Having a large reach and low engagement is a bad sign, because it shows that the content you post is not resonating with your audience. Reaching millions of people means nothing if they aren’t interest in what you have to offer.



  •          Reach/Impressions – Certain social channels report impressions, others focus on reach. This metric shows you how far your message is actually travelling. Total reach shows you how many unique users in total have seen your content. Impressions consist of the number of times content from your page is displayed. A higher number is always better, as it is crucial to improving your brand awareness. Twitter offer a report system that is free for you to be able to track this.

We hope this series has given you an overview of what you need to know to build a successful social media presence, get closer to your customer base and develop your business. Whether your business is already active on social media or you’re looking to start an online community soon, we hope you have found this series useful. Follow @TheAHDB and @AHDB_BeefLamb to be part of our conversations.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Love Lamb Week: a blog from Jessica Spencer

Jessica Spencer is a young farmer, who has been caring for her own flock of sheep since she was 14 years old. She’s keen to raise awareness of the great work done by farmers in the UK to rear lambs that are renowned around the world for their provenance.

Getting into sheep farming
Most young farmers are either born into or ‘fall’ into sheep farming when continuing as the next generation on the family run farm. I am from a beef-farming family but always wanted to farm sheep. Safe to say my parents wanted nothing to do with my flock when I acquired my first six Suffolk X Texel sheep!

Staying motivated
Our animals depend on devoted farmers who feed and care for them every day of the year; farming isn’t a 9-5 job, it’s a lifestyle! When I decided I wanted to purchase a small flock, my motivation was independence. I wanted to receive a first-hand insight in to running a livestock business and manage my own finances. I always strived to be different I can’t say I knew many others my ages who owned their own sheep and maintained an expanding livestock business throughout their secondary education!



What do you love about your job

I can’t say getting up at 6.30am every morning before school was a highlight of my sheep career. Neither was getting shouted at by my mum for ruining at least three pairs of school shoes a term by traipsing through mud (amongst other things) daily when going to check on my sheep! Despite waking up every two hours right through the night during lambing season, the joy and satisfaction you receive when successfully bringing new life in to the world most definitely defies all the negatives. But ultimately we love what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t do it!


Future of lamb farming

‘My grandfather used to say that once in your life you need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.’ – Brenda Schoepp

In today’s society, the younger generation have the consumer power to decide the future and sustainability of our British farmers and growers. We rely on the support of our customers purchasing British grown and reared food in order to maintain the cycle and continue to meet the ever-increasing demand of our expanding ageing population.

My future ambition is to ensure everyone at some point during their education gets the opportunity to visit a farm and discover where their food is grown/reared. We need to be inspiring the younger generation to support British farmers by purchasing their produce and promoting our unquestionable good quality British food.

An unusual story from the farm

Some sheep have a kamikaze attitude to life. If one day they cannot find an appropriate ditch to throw themselves in, a small enough fence to squeeze themselves through or a large enough bramble bush to get caught up in, they simply try again the next day! Persistence is key.



‘Tinker’s out, again!’ Everyone, all the time.
My appropriately named orphan lamb Tinker became a tourist attraction at our Farm Shop in Nottinghamshire. Rejected by her mother, Tinker was set for a life of luxury – seizing herself a 1 bedroom cardboard box with fantastic central heating in a prime location (in front of the AGA). Food was never an issue as she had a personal milk maid (me) to attend to every baa & bleat request for a fresh, warm bottle. Following naptime, Tinker would burn some energy on a small stroll around the yard – ceasing optimum attention and cuddles from passing farm shop customers.


Having out-grown the box, it was time for Tinker to be instated with the other sheep in the paddock; However Tinker had other ideas. Piece of advice: You CANNOT keep a cade (bottle fed) lamb inside the pen; no matter how hard you try’. Tinker was an independent sheep who didn’t need to follow the flock, and she felt life was better on the outside of the pen; because of course ‘grass is always greener on the other side!’



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

We need your support with Love Lamb Week

First generation farmer, Richard Taylor, is one of the 2017 Lambassadors, a group of young farmers who are passionate about lamb. He farms 70 ewes at Lanhill Farm in Wiltshire and explains why he’s passionate about getting involved in Love Lamb Week taking place 1 – 7 September.

It is so important that we get the younger generation interested in lamb. Research has shown that it’s a red meat favoured by the older generation so I think now is the time that we need to renovate its image. I personally think that one of the main issues is that people just aren’t aware of the different cuts and products that are available. Traditionally many think of a roast leg of lamb for a Sunday roast and don’t tend to think of lamb as quality processed products such as mince or even sausages. And what doesn’t help is that the younger generation are used to meat products rather than joints, so we need to show them that lamb can be versatile and cooked in this way too.

Love Lamb Week is in its third year and is organised by farming organisations the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the National Sheep Association (NSA) and is supported by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). Along with eleven other young sheep farmers and shepherds, we are championing Love Lamb Week to inspire consumers and demonstrate how tasty, healthy and easy lamb is to cook.

After starting sheep farming around five years ago, I really think the British sheep industry has something great to offer. I sell direct to my customers and enjoy getting their feedback on my products.

For Love Lamb Week last year I attended a local farmers’ market and produced lamb, chilli and garlic sausages that were a real hit! I also joined up with a local pub to serve a five-course lamb feast. This year I plan to do a range of short videos on my farm, educating people about sheep farming and helping them to understand more about the industry and why it is important to get behind lamb produced in the UK.


Love Lamb Week could really raise the profile of sheep farmers in the UK. It’s a way of life that is often challenging but such a worthwhile business. There’s also a lot of small producers out there and I would really like to encourage people to learn more about their local producers and think about the provenance of their meat.

You can get behind Love Lamb Week too by downloading a range of resources from the AHDB Beef & Lamb website or by adding one of the Simply Beef &Lamb recipes to your weekly menu.