A lively debate about the challenges within sheep breeding, some probing questions about the future of disease control in flocks and a celebration of the activities of the National Sheep Association over a 12-month period all featured in a special event held at the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh.
Run over two days, it saw breed societies affiliated to the NSA gather for its Breed Society Forum, an event held every six months to update breed societies on technical and policy areas and encourage dialogue about different approaches and challenges within pedigree breeding.
As well as an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of maintaining the genetic diversity seen in the UK – in a Progress versus Preservation debate – breed societies were also given the opportunity to discover the latest thinking on the prevention and control of key infectious diseases.
Scientists from the Moredun Research Institute presented updates on their research into caseous lymphadenitis (CLA), ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (OPA) and the use of new immunogenetics approaches to improve disease control.
The second day saw the NSA hold its 120th annual general meeting which provided members with an update on the highlights of recent NSA activity, such as driving the discussion on CAP reform and continuing to fight for a common-sense approach in the recording of livestock movements. This was followed by an update from Dr Colin McInnes on research priorities at Moredun, before visitors were taken on a tour of the world-class facilities at Moredun, both within the laboratories and on the farm.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We already enjoy an excellent partnership with Moredun, as all our NSA members benefit from associate membership of Moredun, and spending two days with the scientists and researchers in Edinburgh strengthened this further.
“Our members highly value the Moredun information that we distribute to them through our communications network, and this was a great opportunity to visit the facility where all that information is generated.
“The partnership between NSA and Moredun is mutually beneficial and brings together the UK’s only dedicated sheep farming organisation and the UK’s leading research and institute in sheep health, genetics, diagnostics and vaccines. This partnership is hugely beneficial for sheep farmers so that research and development, and information and support to farmers are seamless.
“With the overriding need to reduce waste and increase production efficiency in agriculture, improving the health status of our sheep population is essential, and the NSA-Moredun partnership is helping UK sheep farmers make real progress in this area.”
The NSA and Moredun have become more closely associated following a membership partnership agreement since 2011. The two organisations are delighted to have increased linkages and collaborative activities to help support the sheep farming industry.
Dr Colin McInnes, head of vaccines and diagnostics at Moredun Research Institute, said: “Moredun scientists greatly enjoyed the opportunity to participate within this NSA Breed Society Forum and AGM and meet with others in the sheep farming industry to discuss how we can work more closely together to help improve the efficiency of livestock production going forward. We look forward very much to collaborating with the NSA in future events.”
Moredun Research Institute conducts research on the infectious diseases of livestock, caused by important viruses, bacteria and parasites. It employs 170 scientists, vets and support staff who continue to help find solutions for major challenges to modern farming such as the consequences of a changing climate; ensuring safe and sustainable food and water supplies conserving biodiversity and finding solutions to infectious disease.