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: 

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

To find out more about QSM work contact Karl Pendlebury on 0845 491 8787 or visit

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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