16th January 2013

Livestock Producers and Processors Urged to Invest in Innovation

Livestock producers attending Quality Meat Scotland’s Research and Development conference in Dundee were today (January 16th) urged to invest in innovation to ensure they are in a strong position to make the most of the opportunities which lie ahead.

Stuart Ashworth, Head of Economics Services, QMS said the potential is there for producers to make the most of science and innovation and drive through improvements in the efficiency of their businesses.

While current economic challenges driving consumer behaviour in the short-term may be causing concern he urged farmers to look to the longer-term, saying there will be plenty of opportunity to sell red meat globally in the years to come.

“Population growth alone will drive demand at home and overseas. We are looking at a scenario where beef and lamb supply looks unlikely to increase significantly over the next few years, set against increasing consumer demand,” Mr Ashworth said.

“Successful businesses from a range of different industries understand the need to invest in research and development and the red meat industry should be no different.

“We are extremely fortunate to have an exceptional R&D resource here in Scotland. From resource use to animal productivity there is a wealth of information and advice available to help our industry produce what the market requires.”

Outlining the backdrop to the profitability squeeze being felt by the red meat industry, Mr Ashworth pointed out that without support payments cattle producers would fail to make a return from the marketplace and the sheep sector is currently feeling the pain of poor producer returns.

He also highlighted many of the external factors influencing the squeeze being felt by the industry which are outwith the supply chain’s control. These included CAP reform, climate change policy, the weather and exchange rates.

“However our production chain can influence enterprise efficiency and key to that is the extent to which we embrace and use innovation. There are a range of other factors within our industry’s control – including enterprise mix and efficiency from animal health to the selection of breeding stock and stock for market.”

Comparing the performance of the top third sheep producers with the average gives a clear indication, he said, of the potential benefit of steps to improve efficiency.

Top third upland ewe flocks produce and rear more lambs and run more ewes per ram compared with those with average performance. They have higher average lamb weights and use less concentrates than less efficient operators. They also have lower labour costs and finish more lambs per 100 ewes than average producers.Ends

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