BCBC Beef Day Report

British Cattle Breeders’ Club Conference 2018 Beef Day 23 January
 

 BCBC Chairman Andy Dodd

BCBC Chairman Andy Dodd

The second day of the British Cattle Breeders Club’s annual British
Cattle Conference for 2018 saw Dr Matthew Cleveland fly in from the USA, 
to give a presentation on maximising profits through improved beef
genetics, while grower, Andrew Ward, urged farmers to get involved in
public relations. The Conference also saw the launch of new indexes for
dairy cattle, with the 22-24 January event at Telford in Shropshire
marking the BCBC’s 70th anniversary and carrying the theme of ‘Farming
and Genetics – Let’s Inspire the Next Generation.’
Among the many options for differentiating beef in the marketplace, the
most important were those which were measurable and demonstrated a real
difference in value, said Dr Cleveland, who is the director of global
beef product development for Genus.
“As breeders change their cattle genetics, they need to see an
improvement and have a firm objective for the outcome which is linked to
the supply chain,” said Dr Cleveland. “There are barriers to this type
of improvement within the beef industry, because the benefits of taking
action can be unclear.
“All of the parties along the supply chain need to perceive an advantage
in any progress that is being made. Once stakeholders see its value, 
they will begin to demand greater genetic differentiation.”
The first steps were to understand the real value within the marketplace
and define economically relevant traits, as well as deciding how
performance data would be collected, he explained. The breeder should
then create differentiation through a set of selection objectives, 
finally putting into place a targeted programme of improvements. Dr
Cleveland argued the case for splitting objectives into terminal and
maternal traits and basing matings on the information generated by this
data. He added that the final stage for a tailored system of genetic
improvement should include the aim of increasing profitability through
each generation.
Lincolnshire farmer and founder of the Forage Aid charity, Andrew Ward
described how the industry came together on several occasions where
extreme weather caused problems for farmers. This included the forage
shortage which occurred in 2013. Mr Ward also gave his views on the
future, commenting on the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. However he
also saw the move as an opportunity, stressing that producers had many
more mouths to feed, compared with any other time in history.
“Big changes are definitely ahead, and we are already seeing some
exciting developments, such as the robotic picking of fruit and
vegetables in glasshouses and driverless tractors. But we are also
facing threats from activists on subjects like chemical crop spraying, 
the bovine TB issue and the effect on human health from eating livestock
products.
“More than ever before, we must tell our story and make sure the public
receive accurate information about the way we farm. You would go to a
doctor to learn about medicine and to a mechanic for problems with your
car, so we must be proactive and encourage the public to come to us for
advice on farming and not seek information from the vegan lobbyists, for
example. Some anti-farming groups are highly active, especially on
social media, and it is up to individual farmers to try and redress the
balance,” said Mr Ward.
The group of more than 200 delegates also heard how four new dairy
indexes for calf survival, carcase quality, lameness and feed efficiency
will be added to the existing Predicted Transmitting Abilities published
by AHDB Dairy. Announcing the launch, the organisation’s Marco Winters
said that a range of data had been accessed, in order to produce the new
information, which will start to be released from April.
“These four new traits for 2018 build on our progress and address some
of the pressing issues the industry faces today,” said Mr Winters, who
is head of animal genetics. “Farmers want to know which dairy calves
have good survival, which daughters are less prone to lameness and which
will convert their feed into milk more efficiently. Producers will also
value the addition of carcase traits, particularly if they are rearing
pure or cross-bred dairy beef.”
The BCBC wishes to thank the following major sponsors for their support: 
The event’s main sponsors are: Afimilk, Waitrose, Mole Valley Farmers, 
MSD Animal Health and AHDB. Other sponsors: ABP UK; Alltech; Asda; Beef
Shorthorn Cattle Society; British Limousin Cattle Society; BVD Free; 
Caisley Eartag Ltd; DairyPro; Dovecote Park; Egenes; ForFarmers; 
Hereford Cattle Society; Neogen Europe; Shepherd Publishing; SRUC; 
VikingGenetics; Zoetis.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
Founded in 1946, the British Cattle Breeders Club (BCBC) was formed to
promote the exchange of ideas on beef and dairy cattle production. Its
annual British Cattle Conference has become an important event in the
farming calendar, providing an opportunity to connect with some of the
industry’s leading scientists, specialists, veterinarians and best
practice farmers.

The British Cattle Conference extends a warm welcome to non-members, 
although anyone with an interest in the UK cattle industry is encouraged
to join the BCBC; membership is £35 a year and includes a discount on
conference attendance fees. For all enquiries, please contact BCBC
secretary, Heidi Bradbury 07966 032079.
More detailed information about the BCBC and the British Cattle
Conference can be found on the website, www.cattlebreeders.org.uk