A group of leading UK suckler beef producers, backed by supermarket giant ASDA, is coming together to develop a sustainable strategy for the future of the beef industry.
A number of factors are limiting UK producers’ ability to plan for the future, namely the ever increasing threat of bovine TB, a lack of young people entering the sector and reducing suckler cow numbers, particularly in the upland areas which have traditionally produced store cattle for finishing on lowland units, explains Asda’s Agricultural Development Manager Pearce Hughes.
Asda’s National Suckler Strategy Group, which is also backed by Anglo Beef Processors (ABP), has been formed as a result of Worcestershire farmer Adam Quinney’s ASDA sponsored beef scholarship.
Having been selected as an Asda/ABP beef Scholar, Mr Quinney studied suckler beef production in North America and France, leaving him with a clear vision of the issues facing UK producers, adds Mr Hughes. “What Mr Quinney concluded was that the suckler producers he visited overseas had a much clearer idea of their future than their UK counterparts.”
Speaking after his study trip Mr Quinney said: “We need to focus more on cow genetics as well as bull genetics and feed conversion monitoring should be high on the agenda. UK beef producers are excellent traders and use grass well, but across the board we need to become better technicians.”
The 12 farmers in the Asda/ABP National Suckler Strategy Group will be working with former Beef Farmer of the Year Mike Powley and will be using his farm to carry out various trials and new technology.
The group itself will be headed by Asda’s red meat buying manager Jim Viggars. “These beef producers will initially be sharing their experiences of suckler farming firstly with other group members and latterly with other Asda/ABP beef producers. Asda hopes the best practice methods from these farmers can be adapted and adopted by other others to suit their herds helping them to run their businesses more efficiently, take greater advantage of management tools and ultimately increase their margins,” explains Mr Viggars.
Asda have already held a number of best practice meetings with their DairyLink producers and the success of these meetings has also prompted such activity in the beef sector “It is hoped the group will also be able to develop a range of new initiatives which will help farmers reduce their costs and increase their returns,” adds Mr Viggars.
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