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.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Update on the beef feed Efficiency Programme


In this blog, Natalie Cormack, Beef Feed Efficiency Programme Manager, 
introduces one of the new farms that recently joined the project and takes a look at what they are doing, as well as some of the preliminary results. 

Watson Swinbank is an arable and beef producer at Greystones Farm in North Yorkshire and is one of the four farms involved in the Beef Feed Efficiency Programme across Great Britain. The four-year Defra and AHDB-funded programme is partnering with Scottish government and SRUC to demonstrate how feed efficiency traits can be measured and selected for in beef cattle in a UK commercial environment, illustrating how the most efficient cattle can eat less than others but grow at the same rate. This will provide significant opportunities for beef producers to cut the cost of production; as well as the development of an Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) that will enable on-going selection of more efficient cattle.




Greystones Farm has capacity to record more than 60 animals in each batch, which lasts for 93 days including an acclimatisation period of four weeks. By the end of 2018, Greystones will have collected feed intake data on 240 animals. Individual feed intake is recorded using special equipment imported from Alberta in Canada. Watson sources animals that meet a set of criteria to include Limousin-cross steers by a known sire of similar age group. Once off trial, Watson finishes the steers and the carcase information is also included in the genetic evaluation. While on trial the steers are weighed weekly, scanned at beginning and end, and DNA sampled. Watson also records the dry matter of the ration.

The first batch of 61 Limousin crossbred steers finished its data collection period in early spring. This batch contained calves from 10 different sires and they came from eight breeding herds across the north of England. The batch had an age span of 120 days and were no older than 14 months when they finished their trial period. The batch performed well while on test, averaging 1.25kg/hd/day, eating a forage-based ration formulated to be of similar quality across all four farms.

Preliminary results

Preliminary analysis of the first batch of data from Greystones Farm looks comparable with our earlier results. The graph below shows there is considerable variation between the sire groups in the batch in relation to both liveweight gain and intake. The two red-circled points on the graph show the difference in intake between two sire groups that grew at a similar rate over the trial period. The red-circled point on the right represents progeny from one sire that ate 8kg of dry matter per day per head to achieve a growth rate of 1.2 kg/day, while the point on the left represents a sire group that ate only 6.9kg dry matter per head per day to achieve the same growth rate. In general, sires with progeny that exhibit lower intakes with similar growth rates will be seen in the upper left quadrant of the graph.

 


As the Defra funded phase of the programme concludes in 2019, the project team are currently discussing options for progressing this work with industry stakeholders to extend the benefits of the investment and learning across the industry.

To find out more about the project, visit the research area of the AHDB Beef & Lamb website: http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/research/genetic-selection/genetic-selection-beef/beef-feed-efficiency-programme/ and keep an eye on the beef and lamb matters blog for Beef Feed Efficiency updates.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

April update - Strategic Farm Yorkshire

At the end of March, Yorkshire based Strategic Farmer, Guy Prudom updated us on how the farm had coped with the turbulent winter weather in the lead up to calving. Now Guy has nearly finished calving, he looks back at surprise weather conditions in April and how calving has gone this year.


The weather situation is not helping at the moment in mid-April. However I know that I am in an awfully better position than most, with ample silage, but a rapidly diminishing pile of straw up at the two upland farms where the suckler cows reside. Thankfully High Burrows Farm is an ex-dairy unit so the cows there are on cubicles. It just gets a bit messy when calving starts as everything has to go through the calving pens for 24 hrs to get matched up. Then into a straw yard for a few days, before going out to the great wide world.

With the constantly high humidity, the straw that is put out into the sheds only seems to last half a day. The few cows and calves that we have got out are thriving, which defies belief. I think by early April we have managed to get 35 – 40 cow with calves outside. This has certainly eased the housing situation somewhat, although by the beginning of April a scour problem was starting to rear its ugly head in the sheds. Treatment went along the lines of rehydration therapy and if the calf didn’t respond we administered an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Even so we have lost a few calves to scour which is so infuriating. There also seems to be no pattern to which calf is affected and which calf survives.


Both dad and I are very nervous about turning out anymore, just in case the weather does turn. The ground is still so wet underfoot, that it will not take a lot more water to make things very messy. 23rd of April saw dad and I weighing, vaccinating and bolusing the bulling heifers. The vaccines cover the cows for BVD, leptospirosis and IBR. The bolus is for trace elements mainly copper and selenium which have caused major problems in the past regarding fertility.


The last 10 days of April have seen a remarkable turn around in soil conditions and grass growth. From the ground barely being dry enough to drive on with a tractor on the 19th April, to spring barley and spring beans being by the 26th April. Cows and calf pairs are being let out on a daily basis now as grass growth has speeded up, with only the weaker calves being kept back, the result of the scour outbreak. We even managed to get 23 store heifers turned out to grass, only another 40 or so of them to move to Davison. This must be one of the first years I have managed to get them weighed before turnout.

In the past, I generally have about 10 to 15 cows left to calve at the end of April. This year 25 cows left to calve. At the moment I can’t find a reason for it either. The cows are all from different batches, they all had plenty of grass in front of them and the bulls (all bar one) were fertility tested.
So this year I am going overboard as per usual in giving the cows and bulls a   mineral tub containing orvec stimulus as well as phosphorus, copper, manganese and zinc a month prior to turning in the bulls and also at service. This should make sure the cows are ovulating and help improve conception rates.



We have just had some soil testing/ mapping done for us on some of the arable land. Two of the fields in question are growing red clover, so when we apply P and K for the second cut we will now be able to use variable rate application. In Pedica, which dad has owned for a lot of years, the variation in pH, phosphate and potash across the field is quite remarkable. Although I doubt we will save money, we will be able to target the areas that are quite deficient in lime, P and K. Whilst they were here I also got them to divide up a couple of fields at Davison Farm. This will make it a lot easier when I move forward to splitting them into equal sized grazing paddocks.

Might even get out with the plate meter and start measuring grass in the next few weeks as the work load eases off a little and there is some grass to measure!



Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Nematodirus risk forecast 2018

The gutworm Nematodirus battus, a roundworm that causes diarrhoea in young lambs between 6 and 12 weeks of age, can cause mortalities and stunt the growth of many lambs during the spring and summer months.

Eggs are deposited on pasture by lambs the previous year and hatch the following spring. Cold weather delays hatching so when we get a sudden change in temperature it can trigger a mass hatch. The changeable temperatures that we are currently experiencing in the UK can make predicting when Nematodirus eggs are going to hatch into infective larvae very difficult.

To help producers to plan preventative treatment, SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) has launched its Nematodirus risk forecast for 2018 which predicts the hatch date for Nematodirus based on temperature data from 140 weather stations throughout the UK. Sheep farmers, vets and advisers can use this invaluable tool to assess the local risk of the parasite.

An interactive map with a traffic light system of warnings will be updated daily this spring and summer, alongside practical advice. Find out the risk forecast for your area by visiting the SCOPS website.


More information on worm control can be found in our manual Worm control in sheep for Better Returns

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Update from Yorkshire Strategic Farm

Following the launch of our network of our Farm Excellence Strategic Farms in September 2017,
we’ve caught up with Yorkshire based Guy Prudom to find out how the last few months have been and what challenges he’s faced. 

We hosted our first meeting at Northfields Farm just before Christmas on a very wet, snowy and blustery morning. I gave an overview of how the farm has developed from the 380 acre rented unit my father took on with 90 suckler cows, to the 1000 acre and 200 suckler cow farm that it is now. It’s not too bad but, when the weather is against you and you’ve not had enough sleep during calving, it can often seem like a challenge.

In early January, the team from AHDB and myself sat down to work out our key performance indicators (KPIs) for the project. These included:

1. Increasing the quality and utilisation of grass grown

2. Increasing cow output, including calves born and reared

3. Improving genetics of heifers to become a multiplier for the breed to increase output value

I also spent time in January getting to grips with my benchmarking figures for Farmbench. Note to myself: go through the VAT accounts at the end of every month and allocate to each enterprise. Something I tell myself to do, but fail miserably at. Thankfully, I’d kept records of our suckler herd output, so I have managed to crack it and it is been very rewarding to see calf mortality figures dropping and output per cow increasing.

February is vaccination month for the suckler cows. Mid-February we vaccinate the entire herd for leptospirosis, bolus the herd for trace element deficiencies and use closamectin pour-on wormer to reduce the risk of liver fluke and other worms. In the past we’ve vaccinated to protect against rotavirus, but this is quite expensive. So this year I looked back through last year’s calving records and only vaccinated the cows that calved in the first six weeks. This has been fairly stress free due to improving the cattle race by installing a backing gate.

We normally start calving around 7th March but not this year. Things started badly with a heifer calving a month prematurely, losing a cow and calf due to infection and then another calf that just did not want to live. A bad start to the calving season, coupled with the bad weather made things seem very depressing.

With the inclement weather we decided to split a shed using crash barriers, so if the wet weather was to continue at least we could have somewhere to put cows and calves under cover. As it happened this has worked really well.

Cows calved in ones and twos up until about 14th March when we got going with 4 – 6 cows and heifers calving a day. This makes life a lot easier as you get into a routine of going around the two farms where we are calving four times a day. 



The first cows and calves went out on about the 20th March onto some fairly plain wet fields. Rule of thumb is that they need 24 hours of dry weather outside and then they can cope with most conditions after that. It is amazing to go around them following 12 or 24 hours of continuous rain, sleet and snow and find them sheltered under hedges and behind stone walls quite content and warm.

Hopefully, by mid to late April I’ll be able to get out of the calving pens and start to look at the pastures. Thankfully, when I brought the cows in for winter there was still a good covering of grass. This has been my saving grace this spring as the cows have something to eat.

The beginning of March saw me taking stock of our silage and straw situation. Thankfully, we have more than enough silage but straw, on the other hand, was a different matter. An expensive phone call later to our straw merchant saw several wagonloads delivered.

Looking at the heap I had purchased and given several comments from senior management I thought I had over done things again. Sat writing this in mid-April I wished I had bought a bit more!

Our network of Strategic Farms will be holding meetings in the summer months and will be announced shortly. To keep up to date visit beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/events

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Challenge Sheep Discussion Groups facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning

Hayley King who is Project Manager for the Challenge Sheep project talks about the recent series of discussion groups and how farmer-to-farmer learning is at the centre of the project.

Since launching Challenge Sheep back in September, we’ve now held over 15 launch events and insightful discussion groups with sheep producers around the country. As project manager, my role is to make sure we collect the data that will help us to understand the consequences of the rearing phase on the lifetime performance of ewes. The project will track 9,500 replacements from thirteen English sheep farms over seven years to understand how flock performance can be improved.

In 2018, we’ve held nine discussion groups around the country on our farms, covering a wide range of topics from nutrition in pregnancy, reducing antibiotic use at lambing and lambing losses, as well as talks around the RUMA #ColostrumisGold Campaign. Each meeting is chaired by the farm’s assigned consultant and vet to ensure the topic benefits the producers from the surrounding area. We’ve also invited external speakers to be involved, like Poppy Frater, from the Scottish Agricultural College, who spoke to our Windermere group about the Live Lambs Project, a project that looks at increasing lamb survival rates by 5 per cent.






There has also been much discussion around the data on farm and analysis of the results, this includes a look into scanning results as well as tupping data. All farmers attending the events have been encouraged to bring along their own data for interpretation and have the opportunity to gain advice from AHDB and the farm vets and consultants.

As project manager the discussion results have been really beneficial as they’ve helped me to understand more about our farms and the story behind their data. However our farmers are learning more each day through farmer-to-farmer learning. Sam Jones, one of our challenge sheep farmers, has found that he’s learnt at least one new thing at every meeting, which makes the meeting valuable for not only himself but the others involved.

The discussion groups offer producers a platform to share their advice on situations where others may need help and also an opportunity to learn from those around them about the management of their flock.

We’ve got more groups throughout the year and would encourage sheep producers to get involved and join in the conversation. The next series of meeting will take place in the summer.

Want to find out more information about your local Challenge Sheep Farm? Information about the project and the farms taking part can be found on the AHDB Beef & Lamb website.


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Log on for the latest market outlook

With uncertainty around Britain’s exit from the EU, beef and lamb producers are repeatedly asking ‘what are the prospects for our beef and lamb in 2018 and beyond?”. Duncan Wyatt, AHDB Lead analyst, explains why this month’s AHDB Outlook webinar will help answer this question and provide farmers with valuable insight for their businesses.

Many of our levy-payers have animals on the ground today that will not be sent to the abattoir until after Brexit – so gaining a better understanding of possible scenarios for each sector is crucial as they look to the future and prepare themselves for the challenges that may lie ahead.

On 15 February the red meat team from AHDB Market Intelligence will host its second Livestock Outlook Webinar which will focus primarily on this issue and give some valuable insight into the future prospects for the red meat industry. We’ll also be giving a presentation on the outlook for feed markets and an update on AHDB’s Brexit activity. This event will give producers and broader industry stakeholders the chance to review recent developments in their sector and see how the situation may have developed since our last forecasts were published in October.

With the sheep industry particularly vulnerable to a hard Brexit, there is much to address as we look forward. Lamb production is forecast to rise to 312,000 tonnes in 2018, although dressed carcase weights are expected to be stable over the coming years with just small seasonal variations. Imports are not expected to recover hugely from 2017’s lower levels and exports should remain stable, although some increases may be necessary if domestic demand continues to slow.

In the beef sector, the legacy of both dairy and suckler herd growth in recent years will lead to slightly higher numbers of prime cattle, but at lower weights in 2018 and 2019. This will keep production relatively stable at around 900 thousand tonnes. Fluctuations in imports will largely be determined by Irish production, and the market overall is expected to continue to balance with exports.

The webinar is an opportunity for you to ask those all-important questions to our panel of experts during the question and answer session which follows the main presentations.
The webinar will give you access to valuable information without leaving your home or office, and will help you remain well-informed of current market trends and provide answers to help keep your business resilient in testing times.
Anyone interested in taking part in our Livestock Outlook Webinar, at 10:30 am on 15 February, can register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4726584270924402946 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Top chefs share tips on how to utilise the whole carcase


Karl Pendlebury, Quality Manager for the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) shares with us the latest digital activity that is taking place to help promote QSM beef & lamb.

Over the last few years we have developed strong relationships with chefs across the country. We know from our research that farmer to farmer learning really allows for great collaboration of ideas and we wanted to apply that to the foodservice industry, allowing chefs to share their great wealth of knowledge with each other.

To do this we decided to create a series of videos that inspire chefs and future generations of chefs to cook beef and lamb. The films are centred around the chefs themselves and the tips and tricks they use whilst creating the beef or lamb dish being filmed. We felt this would give the foodservice sector something to get their teeth into!



We were lucky enough to team up with some really great chefs at the top of their game – that really enjoy sharing ideas and creating dishes that are tasty, nutritious and above all, allow them to work with great quality meat.

The films also show how the chefs utilise the whole beef & lamb carcase, which is a message our Knowledge Exchange team are relaying to our producers, as the more product that can be used, the better financial return.
The idea is that chefs and consumers watch these films and try something different - but ultimately we want them to use QSM beef and lamb in their recipes to serve in their restaurants and really showcase the quality of meat in the scheme.

British restaurants and food service professionals are becoming ever increasing important to beef and lamb farmers. They help to set the trend for consumers cooking at home and inspire people to try new dishes.

The first film features Chef Chris Wheeler from Stoke Park preparing a version of his grandmother’s Luxury Shepherds Pie.



Six videos will be released over the coming months and can be viewed on www.qsmbeefandlamb.co.uk/off-the-block.

To find out more about QSM work contact Karl Pendlebury on 0845 491 8787 or visit http://www.qsmbeefandlamb.co.uk/top-chefs-share-tips-to-increase-whole-carcase-use+

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Do we think about our health when we choose our food?

In this blog Emily Beardshaw, from our Consumer Insight team, looks at whether we actually consider our health when we choose our food.The Consumer Insight team focus consumer habits that
provide evidence of consumer opinion on topics relevant to our sector, to better inform AHDB’s marketing activity.

AHDB carried out research in August last year that found a greater focus on the health benefits of beef, lamb and dairy could drive consumers to buy more.

We commissioned consumer research that investigated reactions to specific health claims related to beef, lamb and dairy products. Key findings included identification of a general interest in following a healthier diet among the younger ages and that there are differences in what healthiness means to different age groups.

It was found that health has different levels of importance to people and is associated with many different meanings. This research project found that, when thinking about food, older people generally associate health with eating a balance of foods and restricting fat consumption, whereas younger people understood it to be the result of balancing a combination of different lifestyle factors such as exercise levels and food preparation methods. People aged 18 - 44 had a greater awareness of specific vitamins and minerals which constitute a healthy diet than those aged over 44. The words ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘fresh’ were thought of as being healthy.

Consumers were aware of multiple negative associations for red meat and generally could only recall negative news stories. However, they had heard of positive messages around beef and lamb being strongly linked with protein and iron.




Messages based around the presence of specific vitamins and minerals and the health benefits they provide were tested to ascertain consumer reaction. As previously mentioned, there was already a high level of awareness of the protein and iron content of beef and lamb, however, consumers were not aware that beef and lamb contained several different vitamins and minerals.



This research has highlighted that we should continue to educate people about the health benefits of primary food products. Although health may not always be the top consideration when people are choosing their food, we should all have sufficient knowledge to be able to make informed decisions, and AHDB has a role to play in helping to inform consumers about the health benefits of red meat.

You can view the full report here

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