The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the Aberdeen-Angus breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring president Victor Wallace, told a packed annual meeting of the society at Stirling.
Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of blood samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology at present to meet the society’s required specification.
“We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.”
The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus. The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef.
Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of various field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved.
“Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. We should be leaders, not followers.”
Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 rebranding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year.
The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time.
Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee.
He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed.
“There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the herd book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.”
New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.