Digest 72


After two and a half full-on days, and a programme packed with a mixture of world class scientists, beef producers and practical cattle breeding discussion, the 2017 British Cattle Breeders Conference brought my year of Chairmanship to an end. I’d like to thank the BCBC Committee for electing me and for their support; it has been a truly great honour to have been Chairman and to have played a part in the Club’s rich history.

I have no doubt that the Conference will continue to go from strength to strength in both content and profile. Feedback from delegates has again emphasised just what a fantastic forum the BCBC is to highlight and discuss new science and innovation, practical new technologies and opportunities.

The theme of the 2017 BCBC was all about practical innovation and seizing the technologies and techniques available to us both now and in the future. Smart Farming and how it can help to increase the quality and efficiency of production was the theme of the Monday workshop and featured through the Conference. Over the beef and dairy days that followed, six practical beef and dairy farmers gave papers. All are in the ‘here and now’ of technical adoption and were inspiring in their vision of business development. A mouth-watering array of technologies that are available now, are on the point of delivery, and those in the early stages of research and development were also outlined. Many have the potential to take businesses to new levels.

Gene editing and its potential in commercial breeding programmes to make rapid genetic progress was an intriguing and tantalising paper. Professor Theo Meuwissen looked at the further benefits genomic techniques may deliver to the industry in the future.

Theo is the world’s most eminent scientist on livestock genomic selection and it was a privilege for the Club to have him address the Conference.

The message of Brexit inevitably featured and was one of realism that highlighted both the challenges and opportunities for the livestock industry moving forward.  From the Chair I outlined my hope that in this ‘new industry’ peer reviewed, responsible science that brought practical value and benefit would be embraced, recognised and enabled at a legislative level to drive the industry forward. Over the Conference the theme of an integrated industry approach establishing a shared vision of prioritised needs and purposeful investment to develop world class UK structures also emerged.

In closing I would also like to thank and congratulate Maurice Bichard who completed his distinguished six year tenure as Club President at the 2017 BCBC.  A warm welcome is also extended to the incoming President, Professor Mike Coffey who will undoubtedly bring good counsel along with ideas and enthusiasm to the role. A big thank you is also extended to Heidi Bradbury the BCBC’s organising secretary. Heidi has just slipped effortlessly into the role and has been a pleasure to work with. Lastly, the 2018 Conference marks the 70th anniversary of the BCBC and AHDB’s Andy Dodd will be Chairman of this special year. I’d like to wish Andy every success for his year ahead and have no doubt that this anniversary conference will be one to remember. Don’t miss out on January 22nd–24th.

If you would like to see videos, papers, pictures and ‘Talking Slides’ from the 2017 British Cattle Breeders Conference then please visit www.cattlebreeders.org.uk

Iain Kerr