Belgian Blue International Congress
Monday, 02 April 2012 15:11
 MAKING decent money from farming and reducing your farm’s carbon footprint are aims with a common answer, greater efficiency, according to Duncan Pullar, R & D manager at the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board.
 Addressing the Belgian Blue International Congress in Wales the advisor to Whitehall decision takers examined those seemingly mixed messages from governments demanding a reduction in the carbon footprint of cattle whilst also urging farmers to meet a rising demand for beef.
 “With the rapidly increasing human population, many of them with an improving standard of living and wanting to enjoy a more affluent western style diet, farming efficiency will have to keep on improving to meet demand for ever more food.
 “At the same time both London and Brussels are asking herd owners to reduce their stock’s carbon foot print.
 “Tremendous progress has already been made on this front and the really good news is that making a profit, producing enough food to feed us all and remaining inside carbon foot print targets all comes down to the same solution. Doing the job more efficiently, for example by ensuring suckler cows calve down at 24 months instead of 30.
 “There is currently an eight fold difference in the carbon cost of producing a kilo of beef between the best farm businesses and the weakest. Bringing the bottom quartile up nearer the average will help meet carbon targets, protect profits and get more beef onto an expanding global market.”
 Continuing Duncan Pullar said breeds such as the British Blue with their proven efficiency had an important role to play in making the beef industry more efficient and thus more environmentally friendly.
 He also explained how good R & D work could prove to the powers that be that cattle have a positive part to play in enhancing our environment, for example by grazing uplands to protect biodiversity.
Delegates to the Belgian Blue International congress at the Royal Welsh Show 2011
DANISH delegates, who attended the 2011 Belgian Blue International, BBI, Congress in the UK, expressed delight, reports Rodney Magowan, at the quality of British Blue stock, especially as regards height, length, locomotion and ease of calving.
  Delight that quickly developed into firm orders being placed for both semen straws and embryos with leading British Blue breeders.
 Mogens Stendal from Bryrup in central Denmark explained that the Danish Belgian Blue pedigree population is small, but demand for bulls, semen and embryos is rising rapidly.
 “In this past year usage of Belgian Blue semen by Danish farmers rose by 51% with almost 20% of total beef inseminations now ‘Blue’ and suckler herd owners seeking ever more Blues as stock bulls.
 “Clearly our breed society policy of emphasising what we call the ‘X factor,’ that is selecting sires with documented high indices for birth and calving as well as proven high feed efficiency, has paid off. 
 “Aside from this growing home market demand for our Belgian Blue genetics sales are strong into Germany and Switzerland with former communist nations further east likewise turning to us seeking beef sires that add value to calves.”
 However, Mogens also revealed that Danish breeders urgently need more high quality pedigree Blues. This is because the national pedigree herd is so small, barely 500 pedigree animals, that over 95% of Belgian Blue semen used on Danish dairy cows currently comes from just one bull, the May 2002 born Tornado, who has the world’s highest documented breeding value for calving ease.
Eigil Finn Pedersen, owner of Tornado, was the Danish delegate most actively seeking British Blue genetics during the BBI Congress herd visits and two days at the Royal Welsh Show. Running half the pedigree Belgian Blues in the Kingdom of Denmark Eigil, with his wife and son, owns 57ha with another 100ha rented on the urban fringe of Randers, population 60,500.
 “We grow 60ha of cereals with most of the remaining land supporting our Belgian Blue pedigree cows, calves and followers plus some crossbreds. There is also a flock of 100 Shropshire sheep used to graze commercial woodlands. Quite a profitable sideline as their lambs fetch £300 a piece and this breed is of course noted for not damaging trees.
 “The very first Belgian Blue herd in Denmark, established during 1972 at Friejsenborg Estate, was sold in 1989 and provided the foundation stock for our Fruerlund prefix,” Eigil added. 
 “Now we are buying British Blue genetics as stock in the UK have been successfully selected for easy calving, length and height without loosing that wonderful ‘Blue’ ability on crossing with dairy or suckler animals to sire a true beef calf”.
  Within two weeks of the BBI conference in Wales the Danish Belgian Blue Cattle Society had placed orders for 3000 straws of British Blue semen: 1000 straws of Twyning Ash Armstrong, a proven bull from the Carter family’s Twyning Ash Herd at Dursley, Gloucestershire, a 1000 straws of the black and white proven bull Bringlee Carlos and another 1000 straws from a young, black bull, both owned by Adam Neachell & Son of the Cromwell Herd, Staffordshire.
 At the same time it seems that leading Danish breeder Eigil Pedersen has negotiated a contra deal whereby Tornado semen is swopped for semen from Bringlee Campbell in the famous Bringlee British Blue Herd of Graham Brindley at Adderley, Shropshire. Eigil Pedersen has also bought three embryos from the Cromwell Herd with plans afoot to purchase another 10 to 12 embryos.
 Following the BBI event during Royal Welsh Show week orders have likewise been placed for British Blue semen by American breeders and further acquisitions are under negotiation from several nations.
 Delegates attending came from Belgium, Denmark, the USA, Canada, the Irish and Czech Republics, Hungary, Spain and Brazil.

“Having taken part in the foundation of BBI, Belgian Blue International, 25 years ago as the association of Blue breed societies I was delighted to see the huge, positive influence our breed now has on British beef production,” Mogens Stendal, Denmark.