Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Why beef and sheep meat exports remain vital to the industry

Despite current challenges in the global market, continuing to expand export opportunities for beef and lamb remains crucial to the industry. This week’s guest blogger, AHDB Beef & Lamb export manager JP Garnier, outlines the ongoing importance of our export work in continuing to add value to the sector.

The world meat market has been very good for the last five years, but we have to accept that it has been, and continues to be, more difficult of late. The strength of Sterling against the Euro, for example, affecting exports in the Eurozone is well documented.

Current difficulties being experienced in the Chinese economy and falling commodity prices have combined to present a challenge to the industry in terms of our export work. However, it’s vital that we persist with our long-term approach on exports.

This approach remains strategic, with the focus on the export of cuts to add value to the carcase. Significantly, our strategy to focus on the export of lamb cuts, not carcases, has led to an increase from 35,800 tonnes in 2013 to 43,500 tonnes in 2014. Exports of boneless cuts of beef also increased last year. Exports of offal and fifth quarter products have risen significantly. Another key area of added value is our drive to secure and develop markets for 5th quarter products, in particular to non-EU markets where these items are highly valued. Despite the challenging market conditions, our exports of these products to non-EU markets have increased by 144 per cent and 121 per cent for beef and lamb respectively, contributing an additional £12.8 million to the value of exports.

The clear message is exports continue to have a significant role to play. For example, around a third of our lamb production is exported, and we have increased our promotional work in France, which represents our biggest market.

Earlier this year we also highlighted the importance of non-traditional EU markets for sheep meat, with volume shipments to Poland, Norway, Austria, Denmark and Sweden more than doubling since 2010. While our traditional European markets for sheep meat still account for 97 per cent of exports to member states, we can’t stand still. It is therefore imperative that we seek to maximise the full potential of these new opportunities.

To this end, we have a comprehensive programme of activity this autumn to continue with our plans to identify potential overseas market opportunities for beef and lamb to help fully utilise the carcase and benefit the whole supply chain.

Next month, we will spearhead a trade mission to Africa – the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Gabon – where population and income growth has presented potential opportunities for fifth quarter products in particular. We will lead a trade delegation, visiting importers in all three markets to help establish how we can capitalise on them.

We will also have a strong presence at the
Restaurant and Bar Show in Hong Kong where around 20,000 key players from the local foodservice and retail will visit. There are significant opportunities for higher end cuts of beef and lamb, further demonstrating the importance of finding export markets for all types of cuts from the cheapest to the dearest.

Similarly, in October, we will also be at
Anuga – the world’s leading food fair for the retail trade, foodservice and catering market. Again we will be championing the cause for beef and lamb to a global audience.

Exports remain high on the agenda in terms of helping drive the UK economic revival. Beef and lamb have a role to play in that, while helping deliver better returns throughout the supply chain. Our export strategy therefore remains one of the cornerstones of our work, and we will continue to work closely with industry, UKTI and Defra to put ourselves in the best position possible to capitalise on the global market opportunities available to us now and in the future.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Why worm management is so important in livestock production

Livestock growth rate is directly related to efficiency, so it is important that producers manage any factors that may impact on it. It is for this reason that the industry places a lot of value on anthelmintics, or wormers as they are more commonly known. 

As the UK sheep industry has become more reliant on pastures grazed by sheep alone, so the dependence of effective anthelmintics has increased.

Unfortunately this heavy use, and in some cases misuse, of these relatively cheap products has led to the development of anthelmintic resistance. Industry body SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) has launched a set of principles which are key to being able to control worms in the years to come, as failure to do so could have a huge negative impact on farmers.

Lesley Stubbings, an independent vet and member of SCOPS, says that most sheep farmers will need to use anthelmintic products at some stage during the year. It’s important that when they are used, they are highly effective as many farmers already have resistance to three of the five available wormer groups.

To help get the message out to the industry, AHDB Beef & Lamb recently invited Lesley to host a worm control teleconference, and she has also worked with us to present a series of short informative videos on the subject. These videos cover everything from reducing dependence and resistance to getting dose levels right and calibrating injectors/guns.

Parasites are not limited to sheep of course, and worm management in cattle is also something that needs to be thought about and carried out with care. As with sheep, if the dosage is not correct, the wormers are not administered correctly or the instruments not calibrated properly, then it can affect the efficacy of the product. This has a knock-on effect on the performance of the animals and ultimately the bottom line of the business.

To help producers understand this we worked with independent farm vet Robert Smith to produce a similar set of videos for cattle farmers, demonstrating best practice techniques. Robert highlights the five ‘R’ rule as something for producers to remember:

  • the RIGHT product (source the appropriate product for particular use, consult your advisor)
  • the RIGHT animal (ensure the product you have is suited to the animal you want to treat)
  • the RIGHT time (check packaging to ensure implementation schedule, be aware of the withdrawal period of the wormer) 
  • the RIGHT dose rate (read the label and product insert to ensure you dose to the correct liveweight)
  • administered in the RIGHT way (use the right dosing equipment - drench, injections, intra-ruminal boluses)

Producers need to take action now to make sure they can carry on controlling worms effectively. More information is available on anthelmintics from the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme and the SCOPS and COWS (Control of Worms Sustainably) websites.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A day in the life of AHDB Beef & Lamb's south east regional manager

We invited Nerys Wright, regional manager for the south east/east, to write a guest blog this week, outlining her role and some of the challenges she faces.

The job of the AHDB Beef & Lamb regional team is very varied and no two weeks are ever the same. It's the variation of the job that keeps me on my toes.

A key role we play in the team is stakeholder and levy payer engagement. It's our responsibility to pass on information about what we are doing across the organisation to levy payers and there are many ways in which we do this.

We attend NFU livestock board meetings, speak at local discussion groups, write articles in local publications and conduct face-to-face meetings and phone conversations. The kind of information we share covers everything from promotional consumer work that helps to drive meat sales, market intelligence information on subjects like prices and industry trends and knowledge exchange events on farm.

As the regional contact for beef and sheep farmers, you never know what the next phone call will be about. It can be a practical question on feeding ewes, a query about the price of beef, or advice on where to find information on direct-selling meat.

In the south east, a key part of my job is working with my colleagues in the AHDB France office in Fontainebleau. France is a key export market for us and the close proximity to the South East region means we often host French meat buyers, supermarket representatives and even journalists.

Nerys welcomes French agricultural journalists to a Kent farm to demonstrate how high quality beef from England is produced. Her colleague from the AHDB France office, Remy Fourrier, is on the far left.
The group visit Ashford livestock market
For this we need local contacts and often take our visitors around supermarkets, farms and eateries in my region where they can sample high quality beef and lamb from England.

Coming from a technical sheep background, I have always been very hands-on, so a secondary part of my role is delivering technical sheep meetings on a variety of topics, from ewe nutrition to sheep lameness and, my current favourite, body condition scoring. Last year at a sheep event in Malvern I even presented a short video demonstrating how to check body condition scores.

Most of the events are within my region, but occasionally I am allowed out of the sunny south east and east, and I head back to cooler parts of England with more rain and more grass! I’m not sure if it’s my age but wrestling 80kg ewes and even heavier rams whilst condition scoring or doing ram MOT events is leaving me with more bruises than ever before (my dad would say I'm getting soft!).

To expand my knowledge further, I’m also studying part time for a PhD on ewe body condition scoring and the impact it has on the weight of weaned lamb per ewe. This is a four-year project working closely with three farms in England, industry experts such as Lesley Stubbings and The University of Nottingham.

To summarise, my role as the point of contact for farmers in the east and south east of the country is hard work, but I enjoy working with producers in the region to help the beef and sheep meat supply chain to become more efficient. I even have the bruises to prove it!
Contact Nerys:
Tel: 01480 482981

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

How we promote quality assured beef and lamb

Promotion of our beef and lamb is a key part of the work we do. It is a long-term game that needs a strategic rather than a tactical approach. A short-term, knee jerk reaction to market conditions will not change behaviour and deliver maintainable sales increases.

Our promotion covers a wide variety of activity right through the year, all linked together. It is not always high profile, but includes things like working with retailers to promote new cuts, working with butchers on new cutting techniques and gaining access to new overseas markets. It also includes advertising – though rarely under the AHDB Beef & Lamb banner as this is not a consumer badge that would carry any weight or people would recognise. Instead, we put our resources behind the Red Tractor (RT)and our own Quality Standard Mark (QSM) labels which resonate with consumers. They also guarantee country of origin. EU State Aid rules prevent us from promoting that the beef or lamb we are marketing is English (or British) as a primary message.

Advertising is not cheap and, with limited resources, we do everything possible to maximise the value we get – and the cut through to our audience. We cannot push RT and QSM beef and lamb to everyone all the time because of budget limitations, so we pick an audience that makes the most buying decisions and we choose specific times of year to focus activity.
The work is planned months in advance. This enables us to secure the right slots and get significantly better value for money. To decide at short notice to do a TV campaign, £600,000 will not get you very far. By planning in advance, you can get a lot more screen time, perhaps over six weeks instead of two.

Last November, the AHDB Beef & Lamb board signed off the promotional activity for this financial year. This includes television advertising, following on from the successful “jetpack mini-roast” campaign last year, digital activity, social media presence and traditional print advertising in key publications. The target audience is working couples and young families who, research tells us, are more likely to buy a mini-roast. They make the buying decisions where we can make most impact. So we are not targeting this campaign at farmers, levy payers or stakeholder organisations. We are targeting consumers who can switch to buying quality assured beef and lamb from other proteins.

Last year's mini-roast TV campaign successfully reached 2.8 million housewives with children, with 42% seeing at least one ad over the six weeks. 2.3 million people watched the TV ad online. 68% said the ads made mini-roasts more appealing.

The digital campaign delivered over 31 million impressions, engaging over 100,000 people to click on an ad and visit for recipe ideas and product advice. Research shows us that as a result of those people reached by the campaign, 22% did, or intended to, purchase mini-roasts, and we have seen a 45% uplift in future purchase intention. On social media, it delivered over five million Facebook impressions, generating 18,000 actions.

So, in terms of promotion, it started with the trade marketing team working on new cuts, then selling the concept of mini-roasts in to retailers. The retailers then stocked these smaller roasting joints and the campaign flagged to the public they were a quick and easy meal option. Consumers then bought the product.

In 2014 this work, adopted by the supply chain and taken up by consumers, delivered an added £1.099 million in value to the beef sector, and £2.301 million to the lamb sector, the lamb leg category being the biggest beneficiary. This increase is set against the mini-roast leg and shoulder promotional activity, which was the key focus of our consumer activity.
In 2015, our combined growth target across beef and lamb in terms of added value is around £8.7 million. The proposed expenditure on consumer marketing is £1.157 million, which amounts to a 3-to-1 return on investment in 2015, and a target of 8-to-1 for 2016. This does not include the added value of assurance which this consumer work also supports.

We target the autumn for television work as this is peak supply season for domestically-produced lamb. This ensures there is plenty of our lamb on the shelves when we are advertising it. The aim is to make long-term changes to buying habits. This strategic plan was signed off by the AHDB Beef & Lamb board last November, backed by the AHDB board and by Defra, who signed off the consumer work last March after the corporate plan had been out to open industry consultation.

However, because of the nature of the organisation and the statutory levy, we are subject to additional marketing spending controls which means we need additional sign-off from Government on the detail of the marketing work we do in the consumer domain. We are awaiting that at the moment before rolling out the plan. We’ll be sure to shout about it as soon as we can.
  • To find out more about our consumer advertising in the last year, go here.