It is an enormous privilege to have been entrusted to chair the British Cattle Breeders Club for the year 2023-2024. To butcher a phrase from Sir Isaac Newton 'I have arrived here by standing on the shoulders of giants', the giants in this case being my predecessors in the role Amy Hughes and Dr Karen Wonnacott. Karen had the unenviable task of pulling together an all digital conference during Covid times, a task in which she excelled. Amy followed this and was an inspiration throughout the last year, leading the committee to deliver one of the club’s most successful ever events returning to a ‘proper’ in person format and simultaneously setting the stage to raise thousands for the Farming Community Network.
These are hard acts to follow, possibly harder still are the unprecedented levels of challenge facing agriculture in the UK and further afield. Pressure on our costs, pressure to reduce our carbon footprint, pressure to increase biodiversity. All the while facing the sometimes well meaning but often insidious attacks from the ‘animal alternative’ lobbyists and the seemingly ever changing whims of our legislators.
Our challenge is not to produce more with less. Our challenge is to produce better with what we have and to communicate that effectively. To learn from the scientists at the cutting edge of both bovine genetics, the genetics of the microbiome and from those aspects of bovine health that affect and influence their ability to breed successfully. To learn from the cattle breeders who are harnessing that science and applying it to best practice on their farms. To learn from our partners in industry with whom we must form ever closer working relationships in order to prosper, whether they be vets, supply chain partners, academics or others. We take this wealth of knowledge and learning, and we share it across the family which is the British Cattle Breeders Club. That is what we do, that is who we are.
I will end this opening letter with a request to all members of the BCBC and anyone reading this. Tell someone. Tell your friend, tell your vet, tell your supplier, tell your colleagues and your students. The British Cattle Breeders Club is where people in the cattle industry go to grow their knowledge, grow their network, have a beer AND improve their business all in one hit. What’s not to love about that.
More about Ben....
Ben is a fourth generation farmer and third generation Charolais breeder, currently farming 274ha over three sites on top of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire. Currently farming around 100 head of mostly pedigree Charolais with some Charolais Wagyu cross cattle for his beef enterprise ‘Chagyu’. The arable land is farmed under a share farming agreement with a local contractor. Ben farms with the help of his amazing 81 year old father and with part time help from a keen local young farmer.
Ben is a former Chair of the British Charolais Society, which was founded by his Grandfather and others in 1962, and has enjoyed roles with Charolais and Charbray International. He is currently an NBA board member and sits on the board of CHeCS the Cattle Health Certification Scheme. In the past he enjoyed working briefly for the Holstein Friesian Society as an editorial assistant and for AG-World Europe assisting in the export of breeding pigs to the far east.
He is an avid traveller, rugby supporter, cook and reader, particularly of cosmology, particle physics and novels. With a friend Ben also ran an enterprise ‘Pinballers Anonymous’, they rapidly became the largest reseller of Pinball machines in the UK, hosted many events and championships culminating the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) world championships which was held on the farm - the only occasion it had left Las Vegas!