This autumn’s iTexel conference will provide farmers and those in the allied industries with a unique opportunity to gain a greater insight of the Texel Society’s breed development and research and development work as well as the latest industry trends and shifts in consumer behaviour.
The conference which takes place at the North Lakes Hotel on Saturday 17 November and is free for Texel Sheep Society members* will be chaired by Mark Young, head of innovation at the Centre of Innovation Exellence in Livestock, and will see speakers address a number of key themes to help breeders and commercial producers better understand the changing nature of the UK sheep sector, explains Texel Society chief executive John Yates.
“These are rapidly changing times for the UK and indeed the global sheep sector. While the UK remains the largest sheep producer in the EU and the third largest sheepmeat exporter in the world the coming years will see the industry face huge challenges.
“Perhaps the most visible of these is Brexit and the negotiation of trade deals with both the remaining EU27 and the rest of the world.”
But, says Mr Yates, perhaps the biggest challenge is not Brexit, but the changing pattern of lamb consumption both within the UK and further afield. “Data from Kantar WorldPanel showed a 9.8% drop in retail lamb sales within the UK in 2017, a dramatic continuation of an ongoing trend.
“The same shift is being seen in a number of key export markets, such as France and Spain too.”
Addressing the market challenges and opportunities facing the sector will be AHDB Beef and Lamb strategy board member Rizvan Khalid. Mr Khalid of Shropshire-based Euro Quality Lamb will highlight the changing shift in UK and EU lamb consumption.
He will also give an overview of the opportunities changing demographics within the EU, including an increasing muslim and ethnic population, offer the sheep sector and how the Texel breed can best capitalise on these opportunities, particularly in relation to the growing ethnic market.
Mr Yates says Jo Conington, Nicola Lambe and Neil Clelland of SRUC will give delegates an insight in to the Society’s genomic research and development projects and how the Society’s collaboration with SRUC and ABP is aiming to help breeders produce sheep best suited to the changing shape of the UK sheep industry.
“Working with both SRUC and ABP the Society is using genomics to identify sheep with optimal carcass traits, including those with desirable levels of intramuscular fat to deliver improved taste and consistent quality lamb to consumers.”
Breed development has been at the heart of the Texel Sheep Society ever since the breed arrived in the UK, with breeders continually adapting to suit the needs of their customers, he explains.
“The advent of performance recording, CT scanning, AI and ET have all been embraced by Texel breeders as they have sought to deliver what commercial buyers require. Now with the genomic era upon us the Texel Sheep Society is at the forefront of genomic research within the sheep sector,” he explains.
In addition the conference will hear from vets on key animal health and welfare topics, while Mr Yates will give an overview of the Society’s vision for the breed and its place in the UK sheep sector in the post-Brexit era.
Places for the conference cost £20, including refreshments and lunch, and are available on a strictly first come, first served basis and can be reserved by completing the booking form on the Society’s website.
*Texel Sheep Society members are eligible for one free ticket per membership and those attending will receive a full refund of the ticket price after the conference.