SEFARI Gateway was delighted to sponsor and host a session at the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) Conference at the Birmingham International Conference Centre at the end of March. Its annual conference regularly attracts several hundred delegates, drawn from across academia and the livestock sector.
BSAS is a charity that ‘works to improve the understanding of all aspects of animal science and to ensure research and knowledge transfer has a practical and beneficial application’, so you can see the obvious parallel with SEFARI!
SEFARI has a wee bit of ‘previous’ at BSAS, having organised, sponsored and hosted a number of sessions over the past few years, including a panel debate on ‘Can we have our meat and eat it?’ in 2019; a virtual One Health session at the height of COVID in 2021; and a session on ‘Reducing GHGs from animal agriculture’ in 2022.
For this year’s session, we had no hesitation in suggesting ‘Farming with Nature’ – it’s very topical, with lots of media coverage and ongoing discussions around future farm support and ‘public money for public goods’. We also had no hesitation in suggesting our 4 keynote speakers – they’re all very dynamic speakers and experts in their respective fields. We wanted to provide a mix of SEFARI researchers actively engaged in providing evidence around sustainable farming practices, and innovative farmers, who are actually ‘Farming with Nature’ for real – they’re also all Forces of Nature in their own way too!
Our first speaker was Nikki Yoxall, Head of Research at Pasture for Life (i.e. the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association), which supports the link between research and Knowledge Exchange. She is also a livestock farmer and, along with her husband, runs Grampian Graziers up in the NE of Scotland. In her ‘spare’ time, Nikki is doing a PhD in Agroecological Transitions. The focus of Nikki’s presentation was agro-forestry and the benefits of #cowsintrees, not only from an environmental perspective e.g. opening up habitat, improving soil health etc., but also from the animals’ perspective i.e. allowing them to express their own natural behaviours, including self-medicating by grazing on certain plants and leaves.
Image: Nikki Yoxall speaking at the event.
Our second speaker was my Moredun & SEFARI colleague, Dr Fiona Kenyon – Fiona is a Principle Investigator at Moredun, working on sustainable roundworm control in grazing livestock. She is internationally recognised for her research into Targeted Selective Treatment (or TST) strategies, and spoke about how Precision Livestock Farming tools, including electronic ear tags and weigh crates, can be used to contribute to more sustainable livestock farming practices. Such technologies can be employed to identify animals that will benefit from (wormer) treatment. This reduces the amount of chemical used, without losing productivity, which is good for the food chain and the environment, but also slows selection for wormer resistance in the parasite population – win-win!?