ASDA selects farming scholars

Three ASDA beef suppliers will receive funding for research projects abroad having won a place on the supermarket's Beef Link scholarship programme.

Launched in Autumn 2007 by ASDA and Anglo Beef Processors (ABP), the scholarship was developed to encourage innovation in the beef sector. It gives farmers the chance to access funding for a research project of their choice, anywhere in the world.

Commenting on the calibre of the Beef Link Scholarship entries this year, Jim Viggars, meat buyer at ASDA said: "When we reviewed the application forms received, we were struck by the number of different projects outlined and it was initially quite difficult to chose a short list.

"However our three final farmers each put forward a convincing case and we are delighted with the mix of topics they have initially decided to cover during their travels."

The three farmers chosen for the programme are Adam Quinney from Redditch, England; Charley Walker from Berwickshire, Scotland and James Trimble from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Quinney plans to visit France, America and Italy to research systems that provide farmers and others within the beef supply chain, with information on how to improve carcass performance from breeding to ongoing health status and finishing.

Quinney said: "The UK beef industry faces many challenges in the years ahead and I feel we need to find ways to produce beef in a much more efficient way. While short term changes relating to genetics and herd health management will certainly help, we also need to focus on best practice when it comes to improving birth, growth and conversion rates.

"I am also interested in automated data capture systems and software solutions that can assist farmers with information about their livestock."

Walker will to go to New Zealand in September to study grass-based beef production systems. On his travels, he intends to look at grazing management and utilisation, grass and forage varieties plus animal genetics and their ability to perform on grass and forage rather than grain.

"With the cost of fuel, feed and fertilisers on the increase, grassland management is a particularly pertinent topic - and New Zealand is the obvious place to visit," he said.

"The climate there is very similar to the UK and from a grassland perspective they are the acknowledged world leaders in grass based livestock production."

Trimble is also planning to look at grassland beef production in New Zealand. He will be researching pasture based grazing systems incorporating white clover and cattle breeding genetics in Hereford and Aberdeen Angus breeds, which are renowned for the quality of beef they produce.

Upon completion of the projects, each farmer will present their findings back to ASDA's beef suppliers at regular meetings run as part of the BeefLink initiative. It is hoped that the shared experiences will benefit all the retailer's beef farmers, putting them ahead of the game in areas including grassland management, health issues and cost management.

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