Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Beefing up menus during Great British Beef Week

St George and William Shakespeare were in good company on Saturday (23rd April), as England’s patron saint’s day and the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death also marked the first day of the 2016 Great British Beef Week.

The week is the brainchild of Ladies in Beef – a formidable network of passionate female beef producers who are on a mission to tell consumers the great story of quality, home-produced beef. It aims to “raise awareness of the quality and versatility of assured British beef and give the industry a much-needed boost”. The first Great British Beef Week took place in 2011 and it’s been gaining momentum ever since.

This year, the ladies are encouraging consumers to celebrate the humble sandwich by ‘beefing up their butty’, capitalising on the popularity of sandwiches in the modern diet. There’s an array of activities taking place during the week, which runs from 23rd April to 2nd May, including steak sandwich sampling events in Exeter and Leeds and regional charity events organised by Ladies in Beef’s partner organisation R.A.B.I. Add to that a swathe of PR activity, including a 60-second Ultimate Beef Buddy video designed specifically for the YouTube generation, and there’s certainly plenty to capture consumers’ imaginations.

Coverage of the week has been impressive, with mentions in the Guardian and the Sunday Mirror, alongside radio interviews and plenty of tasty beef recipes features in cooking and lifestyle magazines. On social media, butchers, farmers, retailers and celebrity chefs have all got involved, with the week being mentioned on Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube and the Gordon Ramsay Group.

However, while poring over recipes and looking at tempting photos of beef dishes, it’s easy to forget that Great British Beef Week has a serious purpose. With the beef sector going through a difficult time, ensuring public support for producers and the supply chain is particularly important.

The week offers the industry the opportunity to rally round and showcase the best of what it has to offer to consumers. It also gives grass-roots beef producers, which includes the members of Ladies in Beef, a platform to tell their stories to media and consumers who are keen to listen.

While AHDB cannot support Great British Beef Week directly due to State Aid regulations, which apply due to how we are funded, we can still benefit from the halo effect created by the week and the loyalty this type of event helps to build. Many retailers, butchers and foodservice companies are keen to be seen to back our farming industry and it makes discussions with them much easier when the desire is already there to source quality assured beef from Britain.

Hot on the heels of Great British Beef Week, our own comprehensive programme of promotional activity, which has recently been signed off, will be getting started in earnest in May, with two months of activity to support the barbecue season. So, whether you’re giving your sandwich a makeover or getting ready to fire up the barbecue, rest assured that quality beef will be staying at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

Ladies in Beef will be in Leeds city centre tomorrow morning (Thursday 28th April) cooking up thin cut steak sandwiches for the public to try, while educating them about how quick and easy it is to create a nutritious butty. Catch them on Briggate, together with their trusty red tractor, from 11am to 3pm.

To find out more about Great British Beef Week and the Ladies in Beef, visit their website.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Why events are vital to AHDB work

Our own research from a recent AHDB survey among levy payers shows that, across all sectors, face-to-face contact remains important. It is a key method of us conveying messages and gives producers and growers the chance to interact with us directly, raise concerns and learn more about the breadth of our activity.

Events are an important part of our knowledge exchange work within the beef and lamb sector, though the Better Returns Programme (BRP). We held 180 events from 1st April 2015 to the end of March 2016, with nearly 3,000 producer attendees, 60 per cent of whom changed a working practice or adapted something as a result of attending the event.

Exports is another area where we put a large focus on face-to-face engagement through events. Ensuring that beef and lamb have a strong presence at key trade shows in countries where we currently have access is important for stimulating demand. In those countries where we are still working on market access, attendance at the trade shows helps build a market for our products, which in turn helps the negotiation process, potentially unlocking markets worth millions to beef and sheep meat producers and processors.

This week we have had a presence at a different type of event that remains equally important in ensuring penetration in domestic households and foodservice outlets to support sales at home. The Food and Drink Expo, at Birmingham’s NEC, is one of the country’s best known events of its kind. Incorporating Foodex and the Farm Shop and Deli Show also, it is a one-stop-shop for anyone in retail and/or foodservice seeking innovation and excellence.

For the first time, AHDB Beef & Lamb coordinated a cross-AHDB approach to maximise our messaging to visitors, with the Pork and Potato sectors having a presence on the stand while other sectors were represented in the design and styling of the stand. Designed to look like a farm shop, it gave a place for our staff to meet people to discuss anything from sourcing, to Quality Standard Marks, training and recipe solutions.

Our master butcher, Martin Eccles, was able to talk to visitors about our new cut development, to maximise returns from the carcase, and Dick Van Leeuven was showcasing the extremely successful Meat Education Programme (MEP), launched just a few months ago but already seeing great take-up in the industry.

Our stand included a tasting kitchen so we were able to prepare lamb keema Shepherd’s Pie and thin cut steak sandwiches for visitors to try, seamlessly linking our consumer promotion and recipe work with that of the trade development team, working with retailers and foodservice outlets.

Footfall at the stand was impressive and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We can now take this and look at our approach to shows of all types over the coming season, no matter where they are in the world, to ensure we maximise engagement with stakeholders and potential customers, and bang the drum for beef and lamb.

You can find out more about our forthcoming events here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

RamCompare project update

Bridget Lloyd, RamCompare project co-ordinator

It has been a busy few months for our RamCompare farms, as the first breeding season of the project is well underway. Over 2500 lambs have been born so far and the final farm is due to lamb outside in May. It is an exciting time, with eight-week weight visits starting this week, giving us a chance to see the full complement of project lambs born on each farm to date. We are expecting the first lambs to be sent to the abattoir towards the end of May when we will start recording carcase data.

 The aim of RamCompare is to enable the UK sheep industry to drive genetic improvement forward through the inclusion of commercial data in genetic evaluations. The project is being used as a pilot to trial strategies for data capture and will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Partners from right along the supply chain are involved and extensive data recording, from birth to slaughter, will be carried out in order to inform genetic evaluations, with performance data being included from farms through to abattoirs.

On 31 March, nominations for natural service rams for the second year of the project closed and we were delighted with the number we received. It shows that pedigree breeders have a keen interest in the project and we are really grateful for the support.

 A total of 237 rams were nominated across the five breeds in the project, which include Hampshire Down, Charollais, Texel, Suffolk and Meatlinc, and we will soon begin the process of selecting the sires to be used in the trial. All the rams nominated have high estimated breeding values, in the top 20% of breed benchmark, and will offer diversity to genetics already on test. Rams will be delivered to the farms during July this year, where they will be put in to quarantine while health and fertility testing takes place, before being released into the flocks for tupping in September.

Natural service ram team at Chawton Park last year
Five new sires have been selected for performance testing in 2017 and will be used by artificial insemination on up to three of the farms. Their use will create genetic links between trial farms and results collected on their progeny will strengthen statistical comparisons between other rams on test and those used for natural mating.
The rams are:

Wedderburn Peleus, 15WNY02086 – Charollais
Stainton Vantage II, WPS1400599 – Texel
Hans Fokker 95, T79:13:095 – Suffolk
Court 12077 General, 73R12077 – Hampshire Down
Thorganby HRF, 04775 – Meatlinc

 Finally, we have a great opportunity for breeders who record with Signet. Frozen semen from three of the sires used for natural service in year one of the project is being offered free of charge to these breeders. The aim is to build genetic linkages between Signet recorded flocks and the RamCompare project. Conditions will apply, for more information email me at

If you want to read more about the project and our trial farms take a look at the

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Nematodirus – are you aware of the risk to your farm?

Nerys Wright
Nerys Wright, Regional manager, South East and East

As we go into April, sheep farmers need to be aware of the risk Nematodirus can pose to their flock. With the weather warming up it, is likely we will see more cases of the disease and it is important producers keep an eye out for lambs dying suddenly and eliminate Nematodirus as a cause.
Nematodirus battus is a deadly gutworm and normally affects young lambs between six and 12 weeks of age. Eggs deposited on pasture by lambs the previous year hatch in spring, triggered by a chilling over winter followed by seven days between 11.5°C and 17°C. The risk is higher when there is a cold spell followed by a significant increase in temperature.

Young lambs take in large numbers of larvae as they graze which damages their gut, leading to black scour and death. Where possible, farmers should avoid putting young lambs on paddocks that could have been contaminated with Nematodirus eggs, particularly if they were grazed by ewes with young lambs during the previous grazing season.

Nematodirus life-cycle
The University of Bristol has developed an online tool, available on the SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep) website, which provides a Nematodirus risk forecast. The tool predicts when Nematodirus eggs are likely to hatch in an area and therefore when there is a higher risk of a disease outbreak.
The tool now uses daily temperature data from 140 weather stations around the country to help give producers more localised and up-to-date information on the Nematodirus risk in your area. The forecast predicts the likely date of hatching and how long larvae will be infective on the pasture. This is incorporated into a Google map so farmers can identify the weather station closest to their farm, which will provide a risk warning for their area and advice on treatment and management actions.

Variation in spring temperatures over the last few years has meant predicting when outbreaks might happen is becoming more and more difficult. This, coupled with the fact faecal egg counts alone are not reliable because damage is done by immature larvae and not egg shedding adults, means farmers need a reliable warning system and this tool can really make a difference.

Producers are also being encouraged to report Nematodirus cases. This will enable mapping of the disease throughout the season and farmers will be able to view whether there has been an outbreak near them. The first outbreak was reported on 17 March and there are currently five confirmed case of Nematodirus already this year.
Farmers should treat young lambs to prevent disease when there is a high risk forecast in their area. More than one treatment, at three-week intervals, may be necessary, depending on the spread of ages in the group and whether the high risk forecast is prolonged. You can find more information on the control of worms by taking a look at the Better Returns Programme (BRP) manual Worm control in sheep for Better Returns.

Visit the SCOPS website to find out the risk forecast in your area and to report cases of Nematodirus by completing the survey. Also, in case you missed it, Lesley Stubbings from SCOPS recently presented a teleconference for AHDB Beef & Lamb about worm control in sheep. Click here to listen again.

Remember: Stay vigilant, check the risk forecast in your area, and report cases of a Nematodirus on your farm.