Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sainsbury's 'Farm For Life'

Well, on the 23rd November, at the BBC Good Food Show, the stage was set for Salisbury's second Farming Conference.  The event was to show case and demonstrate the commitment by the Salisbury's Supermarket to British Farming and they had asked me to talk about the carbon footprint of our sheep flock and how we are using, the information to make efficiencies.  Well over 1,000 farmers from the dairy, cheese,  pig, poultry, lamb, beef, egg, grain, fruit and vegetable supply sectors were invited and I have to admit to being just ever-so slightly nervous!
First up on stage was Justin King (CEO of Sainsbury's), who gave us a brief introduction and update on the performance of the supermarket, in difficult trading conditions. Judith Batchelar (head of Sainsbury's own brand) was next on stage introducing the 20 by 20 sustainability plan which will be a challenge, and one that will give British farmers opportunities in the future.  Then the farmers took to the stage. First up was Chris Batchelar from Essex who introduced us to his fascinating Strawberry business.  Up next was Vicky and Kate Morgan from Yorkshire who gave us an insight into the future with their concept pig farm, then after a long wait, it was my turn!
After a quick introduction to the farm business I recalled our reasons to work with a strong, sustainable, secure business like Sainsbury's.  Our carbon footprint is made up of various measurements and performance indicators from the sheep enterprise.  Things like numbers of lambs produced per ewe, how much purchased feed we use, our farm cropping, cultivations and soil management.  It includes our fuel and electricity consumption.  The calculation finally gives us a value, a line in the sand, which we can use to compare with other similar farms and then we can start reducing the value.  
The main areas that impact our carbon footprint are,  lambing percentage, grassland management, age of the lambs at slaughter and the lambs daily liveweight gains.  With help through the Sainsbury's Lamb Development Group we've been targeting these areas to make our sheep flock more efficient, therefore producing less carbon.
In addition to the Carbon Footprint we're looking at the Environmental Scorecard, which looks at the impact of the business on the environment.  Topics include, flock health plans, livestock breeding, performance and nutrition, fuel management and our handing facilities. Last year we scored 355 out of 500 and this year we were up to 395, so a good improvement but some way to go.
I really enjoyed the experience of talking to such a large group of farmers about what we are doing at Overbury, even though it was slightly daunting (until I got going).  A big thank you to Purple Patch Events who organised the photographs (with Jonathan Banks ) and put the presentation together and to the Sainsbury's Agriculture team for their help and support.

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