Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Optimism in the air at Livestock 2012

It was great to see such brisk trade being done at the Livestock 2012, incorporating the Dairy Event, this week. Despite the rarest of things, two consecutive days of good weather, which meant many farmers were out harvesting rather than at a trade event at the NEC in Birmingham, attendance was good and the mood was upbeat.

The EBLEX stand had a steady flow of visitors, a mix of producers wanting to discuss specific issues, such as selling beef or lamb direct to the public, animal health or advice on selection, and colleagues from other stakeholder organisations keen to meet up and discuss latest developments in the beef and lamb sector. The launch of our new BRP manual, Better Returns from Pure Dairy-bred Male Calves, was also a talking point.

The value of events like this which bring together key industry players in one place cannot be underestimated. This was clearly demonstrated by the strong attendance at the launch of the NFU’s Bullish Prospects, setting out the NFU vision for the beef sector. It created a real buzz and genuine interest, illustrated by the range of organisations present to listen to NFU president Peter Kendall and Charles Sercombe, chair of the NFU livestock board, outline the course they thought the beef sector should be steering. Bullish Prospects calls for, among other things, a focus on supplying a consistent product, organisations working together to tackle emerging animal health issues, ensuring the positive stories about the industry are heard by consumers, and the Government to look at more efficient ways of regulation so as not to further burden farmers.

The document also referenced significantly the work of EBLEX, and in particular our own state of the industry publication, Balancing the Market. Hopefully others in the industry also see it as a useful reference point for driving the forward the sector to be more efficient and improve returns for producers, auctioneers and processors.

It was unfortunate that the Cabinet reshuffle, and in particular the unexpected departure of Faming Minister Jim Paice, who had been at the show to open it on Tuesday morning and had himself been in upbeat mood, slightly overshadowed events on the first day. There was significant praise for his work from most corners of the exhibition halls. This perhaps slightly dimmed the spotlight that was shining on noteworthy activity in the industry, like the publication of both the NFU document and the first annual report from the Cattle Health and Welfare Group. However, there remained a general mood of optimism that pervaded the conversations at the show and which signposts a positive future in the English beef and lamb sector.