Sheep and goat experts from China were given an insight into lamb production in Britain when they met the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The Chinese Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA) made a special visit to AHDB’s headquarters in Stoneleigh to learn about the country’s trends and advancements in science and genetics for the sheep sector.
It was part of a top level 12-day China Inward Mission which saw them visit farms, an auction market and the National Sheep Association’s Sheep South West event near Tiverton.
The 23 delegates were welcomed to Stoneleigh by AHDB’s Head of Exports Peter Hardwick who provided an overview of the organisation and the industry.
The group was told there are around 33 million sheep in the UK from more than 100 breeds in a great variety of environments on 70,000 farms. AHDB’s Head of Livestock Export Trade Development Jean-Pierre Garnier said the UK produces in the region of 300,000 tonnes of sheep meat – with around 110,000 tonnes exported every year. He also highlighted that 40% of sheep meat consumed in Europe comes from the UK.
The delegation was also told about the importance of innovation such as the ongoing research into grass genetics and grazing systems, ovine genetics, nutrition and the importance of sustainability.
A presentation by Emma Steele, a senior breeding advisor to Signet, told about helping identify animals with superior breeding potential and helping the industry to capitalise on genetic improvement.
Jean-Pierre said: “We are extremely flattered that the CAAA has chosen the UK to view current trends of lamb production. We certainly are at the cutting edge of scientific and technical developments for this vital British agricultural sector and had a lot to present.
“We are also pleased with the caliber of the participants and large size of the group which amounted to 23 people – among them some of the most influential in the Chinese sheep sector. They have visited some of the leading breeding farms in the UK and have seen some of the best sheep genetics in the world today.
“Importantly, although we already have strong relations with the CAAA particularly in the pig breeding sector, this visit will allow us to build further bridges with our Chinese counterparts on the sheep side. It will also help to showcase our industry at a crucial time when we aim to get market access for sheep meet products to China.”