Lambs were in the limelight when Katie Brian of the Agriculture and Development Board (AHDB) visited Hartpury to talk to some of our agriculture students.
Katie currently manages the Better Returns Programme for ADHB, which focuses on improvements that beef and sheep producers can make to reduce production costs and environmental impact while also boosting the performance of their animals.
During her hands-on talk Katie highlighted traits that farmers should be looking out for in their sheep when choosing animals to breed from, for example maternal ability in ewes who will produce more milk for rearing lambs. By picking animals with the most desirable traits for a particular breed, the farmer can help enhance the animals’ performance. This can increase the chance of lambs reaching a good price in a competitive market where it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a profit. Katie stressed to the students the importance of keeping animals fit and healthy and concentrating on efficient animal growth, factors which will help farmers to maximise their financial returns.
Katie also explained to students the desirable weights and classifications of animals at slaughter, this means meeting target carcase specifications set out by customers to maximise the amount of saleable meat from each animal and therefore fetch premium prices. Surrounded by college lambs, who the shepherd had hand-picked for the demonstration, Katie showed the students the ways in which lambs can be assessed by farmers, buyers or abattoirs.
Students could see that by visually assessing and physically handling animals their conformation and fatness can be assessed, and this indicates which animals should be selected to send to market or slaughter. The students were also made aware of conditions, such as abscesses or parasitic infections, that could lead to the animals’ carcase being rejected for human consumption and negatively impact the financial return the farmer receives.
Katie spoke about work that is done by AHDB which has been financed by levy payers within the agricultural industry. It was explained to the students that research has been and is being carried out into different key areas of keeping livestock; breeding, selection for slaughter, health and fertility nutrition and forage and finally systems and costing.