AHDB Beef & Lamb have delivered a Sheep Expertise programme, offering continuous professional development (CPD) to consultants and advisers who want to expand their sheep knowledge. The meetings ran from December 2016 to November 2017. The programme is currently closed but will re-open for applications in summer 2018, with the first meeting expected to be October 2018, running 5 meetings up to November 2019.
The scheme was launched following the success of the Developing Beef Expertise group, which is due to begin its second programme.
Nerys Wright, AHDB knowledge exchange manager and one of the programme coordinators, said: “Following from the success of the first programme, that saw 16 vets and advisers all passionate about sheep production come together to learn and share experiences, the repeatability of the programme is inevitable. Applications will open in the summer, keep an eye out on this page’’
Below is a summary of the series of meetings from the first programme, followed by a list of the group members.
The first meeting was held in December in Hertfordshire. The focus of this meeting was feeding the pregnant ewe. Kate Phillips, independent sheep consultant spent a day discussing forage analysis, options for supplementation and how vets and advisers can work with farmers to improve ewe nutrition in the latter stages of pregnancy. The update of the ‘feeding the ewe’ manual was timely and discussed at length.
There was case study work on the physical data from farms. This was complimented by a farm walk to discuss grassland and management options for the farmer.
Liz Genever said “The second meeting of the DSE group followed on quickly from the first meeting to avoid the busy lambing period. The group went down to Mount Vets near Cullompton in Devon to take part in a post-mortem session run by Alasdair Winearls, which involved a discussion on how the members of groups, whether vets or consultants, use health data with their clients. The group shared techniques during the practical session and identified a lamb that had died due to strangulation in an electric fence.
The group also heard the results from a recent AHDB Beef & Lamb funded project conducted by Emily Gascoigne of Synergy on encouraging producers to post-mortem young lambs to understand how losses can be reduced. There was some discussion on the recent results from the producer-focussed post-mortem scheme based at a Fallen Stock Collection Centre in County Durham plus the data from the new Sheep Health and Welfare Group report .
During the second day, there was a group discussion about how to engage clients with benchmarking. David Pett, AHDB’s regional benchmarking officer, discussed Stocktake Lite and Farmbench and how the group could engage with these tools with their clients. There was a lot of discussion on how to get quality data from farms and how to get producers to recognise the value of the data and time needed to analyse it.
The final session was Pete Bone from Ruminant Mineral Consultancy answering the group’s questions on how to diagnose and treat mineral deficiencies. He also discussed the various sources of minerals in diets and the care that is needed to avoid toxicities.
This meeting had a very positive feel about it and the group seem to be enjoying the opportunity to meet with other people who enjoying working with sheep producers.
The third DSE meeting took place at the University of Lancaster on the 3rd and 4th of May. Day one began with James Hadwin’s approach to consultancy, including discussion on the role of a consultant and the challenges they face in the industry, before visiting a local farm to demonstrate improvements that have been made with the support of consultants. The day finished with a workshop on body condition scoring with Lesley Stubbings.
The second day began with presentations from DSE members on some of their experiences of developing health plans and included discussion and advice from other members on topics such as Maedi Visna and lameness. This was followed by a presentation by Lesley on the results of the sheep KPI project. The final session concentrated on parasite control with thoughts on the success of SCOPS and potential for improvement in the future followed by case studies of worm control, where groups provided solutions to challenging issues they may face on farms.
Throughout the meeting members appeared engaged and contributed to lively and productive discussion on a variety of issues, including challenges to the industry, health plans and parasite resistance.
The fourth DSE meeting took place in Barnard Castle on the 6th and 7th of September. Day one began with Ian Cairns approach to consultancy and discussion opportunities in the area before moving on to an exercise focused on understanding financial performance. The afternoon’s farm visit included appraisal of a newly completed lambing shed and discussion of options for parasite control on this farm.
On the second day there were in-depth discussions on key issues facing the industry. Firstly, there was productive debate led by Fiona Lovatt on what the UK should do to tackle iceberg disease over the next 10 years. This was followed by discussion on antibiotic use in the sheep industry and how members thought this could be reduced with important points concerning the industry and prescribing practices were raised. The day closed with a guide to forage options on sheep farms and a practical session on how to generate a winter feed budget, led by Liz Genever.
The final DSE meeting took place in Nottinghamshire on 15 and 16 November. Day one focused on genetics and breeding and was joint with the Sheep Progressive Group. Sam Boon gave an in-depth presentation on estimated breeding values (EBVs) followed by a staged ram sale which was a practical demonstration on how to select rams for finishing lambs. Joining progressive farmers and vets together provoked interesting debate and discussion with each group giving the other valuable insight.
On the second day Kim Stafford delivered facilitation training for the DSE group. Already experienced facilitators, this day was designed to hone their skills and improve their understanding of different personality types and how they interact in a group situation. Kim also covered a range of techniques to keep discussions focused, engaging and meeting the expectations of all participants.
Developing sheep expertise members