Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Progressive groups present opportunities for beef and lamb farmers

Over the last few years, a number of forward-thinking sheep farmers and beef farmers have been meeting in their respective groups twice a year to look at ways that they can improve their businesses and develop their skills. In November, they met for the last time.

These were members of the Beef & Sheep Progressive Groups, an initiative from AHDB Beef & Lamb which has encouraged those taking part to share new ideas, learn from each other and take information back home to apply on their own farms.

Speaking to members of the sheep group at their final meeting on a farm in Aylesbury, it was clear to see that the experience has been a positive one and that friendships have formed. 

At that meeting we asked a few of the guys to summarise what it is they will take away from the group:
  •  “We meet twice a year, they’ve been good, well organized meetings where we’ve had good discussions and met good farmers.” George Fell, York
  •  “The group is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people to talk about issues you may have on your farm and ways you can correct them.” Patrick Green, Northamptonshire
  •  “I’ve taken quite a lot of technical information away from the group that I’ve tried to put in place on my own farm to improve my own flock, and I’ve also taken away some great friendships.” Adrian Beardson, West Cumbria
  •  “It’s been good just actually being together with so many like-minded people, bouncing ideas off each other.” Jamie Wilde
  • “There’s a few beers drunk at the end of the formal meetings, and that’s all part of getting to know each other in a less formal setting to find out what each other does.” James Barker, Bedford
So if the progressive groups are so beneficial, why are the members calling it a day? Well, it’s simply time to hand the baton over to a new group – and anyone interested has just under a week to get their application in.

The groups are coordinated by AHDB Beef & Lamb and they organise farm visits, provide access to industry experts and ensure various aspects of livestock production are included. Typically, these include health and fertility, nutrition and feed planning, breeding, selection for slaughter and business-management.

Anyone interested in joining will be expected to actively participate in Stocktake and have data for their enterprise collected each year, which will be used to track progress and will be discussed at group meetings.

The farmers we spoke to in Aylesbury couldn’t compliment the scheme enough. Praise indeed as they are the ones to benefit from it. As Patrick Green puts it: “If anyone is thinking about joining either of the progressive groups, I would encourage them to do it. You’ve got to put yourself out there in both awkward and enjoyable situations to benefit from the experience of so many other sheep farmers from across the country.”

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