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Key speakers confirmed for iTexel Conference

A number of key speakers covering topics of vital importance to UK sheep farmers have been confirmed for this autumn’s iTexel conference organised by the Texel Sheep Society.

The opening speaker for the conference which takes place at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith, on Saturday 17 November and is free for Texel Sheep Society members*, will be SRUC’s senior agricultural economist Steven Thomson who will outline the potential post-Brexit scenarios for sheep producers across the UK.

He will be followed by brace of speakers from the processing sector who will examine changing consumer trends and the impact of buying and eating habits on demand for sheepmeat in the coming years.

As the UK tansitions to a post-Brexit economy it is essential sheep farmers stay abreast of changing policy and consumer trends in order to make their businesses fit for the future, explained Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates.

Following on from that will be a number of speakers focussed on the breeding goals required to profit from sheep production in future, he added.

Perthshire-based Texel breeder Neil McGowan will give delegates an insight in to his Nuffield Scholarship which examined the challenge of managing large scale breeding programmes in beef and sheep systems across the world.

“Maximising genetic gain in pedigree flocks is essential to ensure the breeding sector can provide the animals needed in the commercial sector and while the UK sheep industry is undoubtedly different to many others around the globe there are lessons that can be learnt in how breeding objectives can be shared between the pedigree and commercial sectors,” said Mr Yates.

Following the same theme will be Tim Byrne from AbacusBio who will discuss breeding objectives in an era of transformational breeding technologies. “As the breeding sector moves towards a genomic era it is important that everyone in the industry understands the potential impact this technology could have on future breeding programmes.

Further speakers will seek to marry both consumer trends and genetic improvement together when Neil Clelland of SRUC details the value added to sheepmeat from improved eating quality, meanwhile, AbacusBio’s Natalie Howes will take the same theme when she discusses novel phenotypes to meet consumer trends.

“A consistent eating experience will be key to maintaining sheepmeat consumption in future and while there is much that happens beyond the farmgate to influence eating quality, there is also much which can be done at a farm level through breeding to deliver better tasting lamb,” said Mr Yates.

“Through its research and development programme the Texel Sheep Society is actively seeking out Texel genetics with the ability to deliver progeny with optimal levels of intramuscular fat which can deliver a consistent eating experience for consumers,” he added.

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.

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.

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