British Cattle Breeders’ Club Conference Dairy Day

British Cattle Breeders’ Club Conference Dairy Day

Precision livestock farming was one of the subjects under discussion at the annual British Cattle Breeders Club (BCBC) Cattle Conference on Wednesday (25 January). One speaker, Professor Mark Rutter, described some of the technological advances that might be available to dairy farmers of the future.

“Precision farming has had its biggest impact on the arable sector, but the technique can also be used to manage livestock,” said Professor Rutter, who is based at Harper Adams University. He has been involved in the development of the National Centre for Precision Farming.

“The aim is to measure and manage the variability of biological resources, ideally at individual animal level, and dairy farming is at the forefront in this respect. EID is the backbone of any precision system, with the technology predominantly based on passive radio-frequency identification, or RFID.”

Rumen pH sensors were one of the latest developments and these have a variety of functions, including measuring the cow’s temperature, disease detection and monitoring drinking activity, with sensors generally lasting for approximately five months, he said.

Other innovations had been designed to use animal tags and beacons installed in the buildings, to allow livestock managers to pinpoint the location of animals quickly. Other systems used video and 3D imaging, to highlight any cases of lameness at an early stage, for more effective treatment. In addition, robotic milking machines and automatic feeding and scrape systems were becoming more popular on dairy farms.

“The likely post-Brexit foreign labour restrictions could accelerate the uptake of robotics in UK agriculture,” predicted Professor Rutter. “We can also use position data, to enable us to learn more about the social behaviour of cattle. Sensors could also provide valuable information for improving more extensive systems, to facilitate the precision management of grazing.”

Milk Production and Processing Perspective

Jim Dickinson is the businessman behind the Longley Farm milk products brand and he described how he planned to adapt his dairy cattle breeding decisions in a changing marketplace.

“High component milk is the most efficient, in terms of transportation and marketing,” he stated. “If we breed cows for higher fat and protein yields, then we could have more product to sell and would therefore need fewer cows.

“Fine-tuning our breeding decisions will become even more important in the future, as the UK has only limited processing capacity and we are facing the possibility of restricted access to customers within the European Union. My approach would be to hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” said Mr Dickinson.

The British Cattle Conference ran from 23-25 January, under the theme ‘Practical Innovation – Today’s Challenges for Tomorrow’s Generation It took place at the Telford Hotel and Golf Resort in Shropshire. Experts from around the globe gave their views on a variety of topics linked to cattle breeding. The event was focused on beef cattle on Tuesday and dairy cattle on Wednesday.

The BCBC wishes to thank the following sponsors for their support: Major sponsors: Asda; Afimilk; Waitrose Farming Partnership; AHDB Dairy; Mole Valley Farmers. Other sponsors: ABP UK; AHDB Beef and Lamb; Alltech; British Limousin Cattle Society; CIS; DairyPro; Dovecote Park; Egenes; ForFarmers; Hereford Cattle Society; Holstein UK; Merial Animal Health; MSD Animal Health; Neogen Europe; NMR; Shearwell Data Ltd; Shepherd Publishing; Shorthorn Cattle Society; SRUC; VikingGenetics; Zoetis.



Founded in 1946, the British Cattle Breeders Club (BCBC) was formed to promote the exchange of ideas on beef and dairy cattle production. Its annual British Cattle Conference has become an important event in the farming calendar, providing an opportunity to connect with some of the industry’s leading scientists, specialists, veterinarians and best practice farmers.

The British Cattle Conference extends a warm welcome to non-members, although anyone with an interest in the UK cattle industry is encouraged to join the BCBC; membership is £35 a year and includes a discount on conference attendance fees. To book a place and for help with arranging accommodation, please contact BCBC secretary, Heidi Bradbury 07966 032079

More detailed information about the BCBC and the British Cattle Conference can be found on the website,

The event’s main sponsors are: ASDA, Afimilk, Waitrose, Mole Valley Farmers and AHDB Dairy.


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