CEO Report to Membership July 2021
We continue to work around COVID 19 restrictive practices in Pedigree house; all precautions are in place and staff attendance is still limited with remote working as per Scottish Government regulations and advice.
The two new additions are settling into the team well and the learnings that they must do are being accomplished. With the advent of the ten-year plan and the extra Committee meetings and the extra input from the Committees compared to the old regime, the level of activity that is required in Pedigree House is heightened. We have ambitions and we must make sure they are resourced correctly to ensure success.
We have not had the staff one to one interviews yet for the mid-year but I have planned this for the beginning of August, to review performance to date and highlight any areas of concern that both they have, and I have with them to give both sides the opportunity to correct any shortfalls by the next review time in November.
Barbara Webster officially was released from her full-time bondage to PCS at the end of June 2021 which gave her three weeks from Robert Gilchrist Joining and her full-time role ending. It has been the brief from me to Robert to learn all there is to know about Breedplan and how it works in those three weeks following his induction.
We have however retained Barbara as a consultant on a self-employed basis to just help us through the transition of her finally leaving fully and “weaning” her off what has been a massive part of her life for so long. We have initially set this up on a two day per week programme and that will reduce as and when the rest of the people in PCS can pick up the reins fully.
It is PCS financial year end on the 31st July and unlike the Society it has this year taken on a lot of extra cost because of personnel changeover, recruitment costs etc and reduced income taking it to a level of staff cost way above the industry standards. This is however an investment in the future and PCS will be taking the lead as we go forward with technical matters that are being instigated by Council to facilitate the deliverance of the 10-year plan.
Overall, the past 18 months have been very challenging. We are now in the holiday season and the holiday that staff members are allocated and have earned through long service range from 20 days to 30 days plus 10 public holidays we are really stretched when one member of any team is off on holiday and with only one person as much as possible allowed off at any one time, we are always a man down. We are aware that communication with the office is challenging at this time but again we do ask for patience and we are looking at a number of measures to improve the situation.
July has been taken up a great deal by preparation to make the Council meeting scheduled for the 28th July a positive step forward for the new structure with Zoom Committee meetings taking centre stage. Brief updates on activity for each committee follows.
Breed Development Committee
Robert Gilchrist, the Breed Development manager is taking the lead on this one to hopefully take a little of the pressure from the CEO who has to work very hard on his technical knowledge to try and keep up with events. From a very much more technical background we hope that Robert can bolster our skill base and move things forward on that front. Swot analysis on our priorities, is done, now we need to formulate how we make the influence scores count. The Committee has just taken a little bit more getting going than some and focus and drive needs to be the next phase of what is a huge and important part of what we do to help us achieve the goals that we have established that need scoring.
Established a quest to improve the efficiencies in registrations by identifying roadblocks and the Committee has made great steps towards this goal with several Council past decisions being revisited to establish ways forward after two meetings. We have established a revisit to the rules in the way that we handle DNA requirements for our cattle that should make great inroads into the problems we, and you have been experiencing. My thanks to Ian Watson and the Committee on behalf of the team here for their efforts and support in recognising and listening to the issues and for developing ways to make the registration process a simpler one taking a very common-sense approach to ease what has evolved into a very arduous process. It is a good job that we have had a spell without shows and sales to let Emily get her feet under the table and her contribution to the registration department is welcomed by Caroline and Fiona. Our remote working is causing a bit of a problem with phone answering as we are not all in to take general registration enquiries, time delays are meaning that we are having to call everyone back and the cause of some frustration to many. Please when using the automatic switchboard select a member of the registrations team and that call will go to their voicemail and won’t be lost. Preferably e-mail them and you will have a track of the communication if it gets missed or overlooked. Far from an ideal situation we realise but we are rectifying as we go forward and hope to see some improvements in reaction times
We have been unable to hold a Finance Committee meeting but under the chair Matthew Currie we have developed a new way of reporting to the Committee and Council clearly and concisely the up-to-date situation with the finances. Overall, the Society’s books are in good shape as we head towards the year end in October, mainly owing to reduced outgoings due to Covid. Thanks to Matthew for bringing us some outside experiences from the day job to introduce us to this new system which will help us communicate areas of the finances to the wider Council so that in turn they have the knowledge to field questions from the membership on our finances and keep in line with their responsibilities as trustees for the Charity.
We have also developed a strategy of providing a forecast to year end with the elimination of any sudden shocks to the system being experienced after year end.
This new Committee has held its first meeting in the wake of the receipt of the Lucy Noden report which is being digested and revisited with several revised objectives to get us to where we need to be with DNA. The functionality of our DNA programme is three-fold: Parent verification, Genomic ambition, and Sire Verification of beef by Identigen. I believe that all three are functions that are a great part of what we do and the preservation of Aberdeen-Angus presence on pack and in store as a quality offering is paramount to our success as a breed. We are fast learning that Genomic evaluation is the way ahead for our breed and we just keep coming across the questions from third parties that would be answered by this science. We are taking a great deal of advice on this subject to make sure that we are to the best of the ability of Council gathering as much information as we can to make an educated choice of the best way forward. It’s not easy as there are so many different options and avenues to take but we will do our level best to come up with the best one for us and travel with it into the future. Again, the decisions of this Committee under the Chair Colin Davidson is paramount to our success in meeting our 10-year plan, no pressure then!! This is again very much under the remit of Robert Gilchrist to lead with this particular Committee and bring his technical expertise in to add to the overall mix.
This Committee has been very active since its formation under the Chair Chris Wilkinson with his very hands-on approach to the business in hand. I am supported by him every step of the way and with the help of Emily Simpson on the Web site and social media who has taken up this role and is managing very well. We hope that we can take our message to our four identified “Pillars” where we feel that we can make a difference both behind and in front of the farm gate to take our messages forward and home in on the Aberdeen-Angus advantage in each particular area tuning the message up to fit the requirements of that sector. Some clear objectives established were put forward to Council this meeting for consideration and approval and this is a good sign that the Committee is working well. The marketing plan after revision was circulated prior to Council along with the CEO marketing framework which all passed muster with Council and no objections to our proposed direction of travel. We continue to develop our relationship with Pinstone PR and are now on an even keel with some markers laid down outlining more exactly our expectations, and some new and innovative initiatives have been put into the mix for further development.
Shows, Sales, Health and Breed Character Committee.
The Carlisle May sale went with a near to normal format with plenty of bulls forward with some comments that the quality was severely lacking and a distinct opinion that the buyers decide may not be good enough anymore and some action taken to improve it.
Worcester hosts the dispersal of the last of the unsold cattle from the Nightingale herd of the Robertson’s fame. The CEO will be in attendance along with Chris Wilkinson from Council
There is a multi-breed female sale in September at Stirling and there will be a female sale at Skipton in early November to organise. Plenty of opportunity to make sure that you can get some new lines and perhaps some access to new genetics that can take your herd forward.
Stirling October preparations for a big sale with the Blelack dispersal sale and a large consignment of reduction from Tonley making it a full day in the ring for Aberdeen-Angus on Monday the 19th October with show on the 18th to savour and view with some normality to stock on offer.
Westmorland Show is hosting the Summer National which preparation is well underway with Emily taking the lead under the wing of Laura Stewart’s guidance for the first few shows.
The Winter National at Borderway Agri Expo is next up and our Winter National again is being prepared for. I have achieved £2,000.00 sponsorship for the Summer National from Tesco and Foyle Meats and for the Winter National £1,000.00 from AK Stoddart, all three of which I am very grateful to for their support
News that Stars of the Future is also taking place at Stirling this year and it’s hoped that the Premier Calf show at Thainstone and the Black Beauty Bonanza will also go ahead to round the year off and a welcome return for many to the show ring.
The Great Yorkshire Show was enjoyed by many of the show specialists with a good number of Aberdeen-Angus considering all that was going on with the pandemic; attendance of the CEO for three days of the show has made a hole in keeping up with the Society business and this will need to be revisited with clear guidance from Council as to what and when the CEO needs to attend shows.
No health matters have been discussed other than the Johne’s testing rule changes that has split the industry right down the middle with a wedge between the pedigree breeds societies and the NBA on their stance on this. A meeting of the Committee before the October sales will be required and the preparation for the Council meeting face to face regulations permitting to be organised around that which from a practical point of view will be challenging.
AI Sub Committee
A huge part of our success as a breed when looked at from a BCMS perspective is the AI companies, we are working very closely with them now to establish some agreed ways of working to our mutual benefit. A visit with myself, Robert Gilchrist, and Chris Wilkinson to Cogent and a meeting with Stuart Bootman and Boomer Birch proved very constructive and a pathway established for discussion with the wider Council. A clear understanding is being established between the Society and the AI companies of what we can offer each other in terms of opportunities is being worked upon now.
Due to the restrictions owing to the pandemic it has been difficult to progress to the next stage, but Chair Henk Rennie has all the ducks in a row ready to pounce at the first opportunity to get the survey done to give us a start point.
Continuous enquiries for stock from the “Stan” countries most of which owing to the lack of health agreements cannot be supplied from the UK. A longer-term embryo programme opportunity for the UK beef and dairy breeds is being driven along now and is gathering pace with action being taken by Beijing to survey the beef cattle population which was the first step that happened when the dairy industry was modernised and made more efficient. Numbers are staggering and a considerable project of embryo and semen export is the prize!
The EU still battles with the big stick to beat the UK up with for leaving their fold! There is still no Border Control points at the short ferry crossing Dover – Calais and not likely to be soon so shipments to the EU are proving difficult if not nigh on impossible. Also, the complication of the Irish Border is a massive issue which I am part of the lobbying group headed up by the NBA and the NSA on this to have show licence’s reinstated to allow NI breeders to travel to and from the UK without 6 months quarantine and the retagging issue being fought.
Since the change in Committee Structure the workload has become huge, and I seem at times to have a tremendous amount of work to do and cover within tight timeframes. Now that we are getting into all the Committees having met, we are seeing a considerable amount of crossover between that where this is creating many items being discussed at more than one Committee as well as some confusion as to which Committee is responsible for delivering on a said topic. This is just a teething problem of the restructuring and will work its way through the system.
We have nine Committees plus Executive each with different agendas and different projects to work on. That is if each one has 4 tasks, some have less and some have more, on the agenda, we have 36 jobs going at the one time; this is untenable and unfortunately, I fear will lead to failure to deliver as effort and resource is diluted too far.
One or both of our Junior Presidential team are present at all the meetings. This is a tremendous time commitment, and I am grateful to them for the efforts that they are putting in this year. I am also grateful to all the committee members who also give up their time many on multiple Committees meaning again a huge commitment but if we take small steps and deliver an outcome then we will succeed, more shorter meetings need to be the goal.
The above is as well as all the normal tasks of running and managing the staff, ensuring that they can keep on top of their work and try and maintain a happy medium.
I am acutely aware that we are falling short with member services and getting the basics right is very much in my focus and there is room for improvement; nothing happens fast but it is in the sights and hopefully we will see improvements in this very quickly.
Time theft is the most important factor for me when I am being dragged away on items of no positive impact to the wellbeing of the Society and too much of my time is spent on dealing with things that are detrimental to our performance.
We were very fortunate that Mairi Goudgeon MSP visited us at Pedigree House and gave us the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion on our ambitions with the breed and also our aims on the many wider sues that are on the political agenda at the moment where we may be able to help. We are in touch now with her wider team to engage with them to see where we can get to on several initiatives that we can perhaps work on jointly.
The World Angus Secretariat by Zoom took place on the 1st / 2nd July 2021 as a stand in for the actual Forum which was due to take place this year. Very much thanks to the Australian Angus organisation who would have been hosts this year for arranging. Thank you to Finlay Munro for Joining me on that call for the evening. Great deal of emphasis placed on DNA and the role that its playing on the global stage with extensive presentation from American Angus to the rest of the secretariat explaining their place within that and that they have joined forces with Australia and Canada to genetically evaluate their herds as well and offering encouragement to the others to join the party.
A visit to Paul Westaway and Anton Hofland of MSD to see some of the Allflex technology that may help us in our quest to gather more data from our herd with Robert Gilchrist followed by a meeting with ABS Genus and Cogent breeding, encompassing a visit to the 3000-cow dairy unit Grosvenor Farms was very informative and gave myself Chris Wilkinson and Robert some insights into their business.
As mentioned above the Great Yorkshire Show returned under different conditions over 4 days but a welcome social release for the Show circuit enthusiasts and a very convivial show atmosphere was evident with the attendees and exhibitors.
I hope that this report gives you a flavour of what July has meant to the Society from a CEO perspective and my thanks to the staff in Pedigree House, members of Council and the presidents for their continued support in our activities.
Barrie L. Turner CEO – 2-08-2021