January 24, 2015

Nick Everington - Chief executive, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers

Organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), Livestock Event is the leading event for the UK livestock sector. It presents a unique opportunity for all dairy, beef, sheep, goat, pig and poultry farmers as well as farm managers, stockman, consultants, processors and retailers to see the best livestock, equipment, products and services available in the UK market.
This year, the show attracted 15,740 visitors over two days, including seven of the Grain and Feed Milling Technology team. Alice Neal spoke to Nick Everington, chief executive, RABDF about Livestock Event.
Born in North Yorkshire, Everington studied Agricultural and Food Marketing at Newcastle University. A 24-year career in sales and marketing roles in the agricultural supply industry followed. Everington was appointed RABDF chief executive in 2002.

How long has Livestock Event been going?

The event was first held as the Dairy Show in 1876 at the Assembly Halls, Islington, London. Since then it has been rebranded 10 times.

How has the shown grown and developed over the years?

The show moved from Olympia in London to the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh and in 1975 changed its format to the specialist Dairy Farming Event. Continued decline in dairy farmer numbers led it to diversify its content in 2006 and rebrand as the Dairy Event and Livestock Show. By then it had outgrown the undercover facilities at Stoneleigh Park and in 2010 the event relocated and became the first agricultural event to be held at The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.

What have been the biggest successes?

Without doubt, the decision to relocate to the NEC. Attendance increased by 10 percent in year one. Farmers are able to drive straight off the motorway network to free parking, or travel by train or fly in to Birmingham International and walk to the exhibition halls, so it’s feasible to travel there and back in a day from most parts of the UK and Ireland. 
The modern purpose built exhibition facilities provide a professional image for agriculture putting the sector on an equal footing with other industries. Interlinked halls allow free movement increasing visitor flow, and introducing product zoning to stand layout has enabled visitors to more easily locate exhibitors.
Rescheduling in 2013 from the traditional September slot to July was a controversial decision. However, it proved very successful with attendance up over 10 percent on the previous year.

Do you see the potential for an international dimension to the show – both in terms of exhibitors and visitors?

Visitors from over 20 countries currently attend. We believe there is great potential to attract both more visitors and exhibitors. The NEC has the best venue logistics and accompanying facilities in the UK. We welcome more UK supply trade involvement as well as government support.
Have you got any plans for any new elements for Livestock Event 2014?
The short answer is yes. Every year we introduce new features to make this a ’must attend’ annual event for all livestock farmers. We review all features through our annual farmer visitor survey, identify any gaps and build on those we believe have potential.

What are the biggest challenges livestock farmers face in the UK?

Forage stocks are low after an exceptionally long winter and late crop sowings will keep cereal prices high. As well as pending Common Agricultural Policy reform and the threat of lower single farm payments, retailers and processors need to understand they must pay more to primary producers to not only reflect current feed costs, which to be fair, some of them have been, but more importantly take into account the true costs of production. These costs include salary commensurate with a farmer’s skills and responsibilities, a realistic amount for pension provision together with a sufficient margin for reinvestment.  

Can you tell us a bit about the Feed Science Forums?

Working with the British Society of Animal Science’s Mike Steele, RABDF developed a programme of seminars linking research and science with practical farming. They provide companies with new feeding concepts and a platform to communicate their messages to practical working farmers.   

What factors affect animal feed use on the farm?

On ruminant farms, forage quality and quantity has a major impact as we have witnessed last winter with feed mills struggling to keep up with demand. TMR feeding on both dairy and beef farms will continue to create strong demand for co-products if high cereal prices are maintained.

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