Beef & Lamb ambassadors

Beef & Lamb Ambassadors is a national discussion group, funded and facilitated by AHDB.

AHDB set up the group to:

  • Challenge current thinking
  • Encourage the sharing of new ideas
  • Motivate participants to increase the efficiency and profitability of their own businesses

Group members will also learn about wider industry issues that impact the Beef & Lamb sector, and gain an understanding of how they can assist AHDB in its vision to protect and promote the industry’s reputation.

Participating farmers will also develop their technical and business skills through discussion and access to industry experts.

Meetings are tailored to the needs of the group, with participating farmers having the opportunity to host and discuss challenges directly related to their business. Benchmarking forms a key theme throughout, with costings and individual objectives set at the start of the group’s three-year term.

Who can join?

To join you need to be an English beef or sheep producer, who is keen to share ideas and make positive changes to their business.

What former group members say about the experience 

Five former members of similar AHDB groups say what they got out of it.

Previous discussion group member Elizabeth Jervis talks about why she is encouraging others to apply.

Since joining the group in 2019, Elizabeth has implemented rotational grazing, tightened up the calving block and has also managed to reduce age at first calving. She said:

“Being involved in the AHDB discussion group has been instrumental in making changes to my business at home.

“There is no substitute for going onto farm and speaking to people who are implementing the changes that you would like to. My group were a nice mix of people who were either hoping to make the same changes I was or had already made the change and could provide me with advice. At the end of the day, you can read as much as you want but its only when you talk to people that you really gain confidence to try it for yourself.

“At the start of the programme we all benchmarked against each other using the AHDB tool Farmbench and that really helped me identify where I needed to make tweaks to my suckler enterprise. We had the longest calving period, by a long way, so I knew this was something we needed to improve.”

To reduce the calving period Elizabeth pulled the bulls out after 10 weeks which she described as terrifying. She said:

“When we took the bulls out we hadn’t pregnancy tested so I was really concerned we wouldn’t have calves the following year, but being part of the group gave me the confidence to do it.
“Interestingly, we didn’t have a high cull rate that first year and we have now realised how much easier block calving is, compared to the 9 month calving period we used to have. We can feed the cows better, it’s easier to manage labour around calving and our weaning percentage has increased.”

Elizabeth had tried calving heifers for the first time at two years of age in the past but it hadn’t been successful. At the time of joining, only half of her heifers were calving at two years. She said:

“Speaking to the group I realised I wasn’t managing my newly calved heifers well enough which meant I struggled to get them back in calf. We now treat this group as a priority and they are always turned out onto the best grass.
”All heifers are now calved at two years of age and 95% successfully rebreed within a 10 week bulling period."

The final change Elizabeth made to her business was implementing rotational grazing. She said:

“It was something that had been on our radar for a while and it was only through talking with other group members and hearing how it worked on their farms, including reducing N usage and increasing grass quality and quantity, that we decided to give it a go”.

Elizabeth realised that she needed some additional support in the form of a grassland consultant who helped her set up the first grazing rotation. She added:

“We started out small with just one group of youngstock and now we rotationally graze 2/3 of the farm. This has resulted in cattle coming into the sheds heavier which has reduced age at slaughter by two months.
“All of these changes have made a big difference to my business and all of them have been driven by being part of the AHDB discussion group. I would encourage everyone to apply, not only because it provides you with the opportunity to visit some really progressive farms but more often than not, it’s the conversations you have in the bar at night with the rest of your group which are the most important.”

Previous discussion group member Mick Skinner discusses what he gained from the group.

“I first applied to join the group because of the opportunity to meet like minded farmers and progress my business. As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’ so I was keen to learn from others.”

During his three years as part of the discussion group, Mick has made several changes to improve his flock health including taking regular blood tests, conducting post mortems on any thin ewes and reviewing his vaccination policy. He added:

“One of the meetings focused on flock health, and after listening to the speaker and talking to my peer group I realised I should be doing more proactive blood testing. By doing this I have been able to work with my vet to change the boluses we use and make sure they contain the right trace elements for my flock. We blood test regularly, and often the trace elements the flock requires differ from year to year.”

Mick has also reviewed his vaccination policy and now vaccinates for lameness twice a year, rather than once, which has substantially reduced his antibiotic usage. He said:

“We heard from some great speakers, but its only when you discuss it with your peers who are putting the evidence into practice that you realise what tweaks you can make to your own business.”

Mick encourages farmers who are keen to progress to apply, saying:

“You will learn such a lot, not only from industry experts but also from your peer group, and the information is extremely practical -   it doesn’t feel like you are being lectured at.

“Being part of the discussion group provides you with an opportunity to meet like minded people who you wouldn’t normally meet, who are all facing similar challenges and with their help, as well as AHDBs, it can make a really positive difference to your business.”

Apply now

Applications are now closed and the first meeting is planned for 31 October and 1 November 2023.