Introduction to BASCO

A number of breed societies decided to cooperate when replacing their existing databases for pedigree registration and herd book administration. This led to the formation of a company called BASCO that these founding societies use as a holding company, thereby allowing the individual founder members to continue servicing their members as autonomous independent organisations promoting their respective breeds. The rest, as they say, is history. Or is it? Perhaps the best is yet to come. Following the award of a major grant from the Agricultural Development Scheme (ADS) provided by Defra, developments in the original database to incorporate health and fertility traits, the joining of BASCO by Signet and the genetic evaluations being undertaken in Edinburgh by SAC have all been initiated; this being the start of a development program that will lead to a major breeding and performance recording company operating in the UK for UK farmers, using UK parameters for evaluation and most importantly, owned and controlled by UK farmers. What will this mean to UK producers? This article sets out the benefits of this co-operative venture and explores where this process will lead. It finishes off with a plan of action to be implemented by BASCO over the next 5 years.

BASCO

The holding company is simply a vehicle by which the participants can organise themselves and divide the cost and benefits of cooperative action in an organised and equitable manner. BASCO currently employs nobody and subcontracts all its activity out. It is run by a Board of Directors drawn from the founder members. It may be thought of as a brand name.

Objectives

The company's objectives are to profitably run the business of storing a wide range of relevant animal data on an easy to use web-based database, developing the database to suit future anticipated needs and managing that whole process. Its surpluses are currently deployed in developing the database to enable each founder member to increasingly provide a wider range of services and products to its respective customer base. The company business model is based on making a small financial surplus from the transaction charges made to each of its founder members and to extending its services to other customers. BASCO has no intention of replacing the activity of its founder members in breed promotion and development. Its intention is to undertake that part of breed society work that is most profitably shared such as database maintenance.

Cooperative Activity

BASCO's belief is that Breed Societies will come under progressively greater pressure as the inevitable increase in recording required by legislation and quality assurance places a burden on farmers that could displace registrations. In effect, Societies will be better placed to resist that pressure if they can become more relevant to their members by providing a wider range of services and by increasing the value to their members of the information they collect. They have chosen to co-operate with each other and with other organisations, such as Signet, SAC Egenes &BCMS to bring that about. The reduced cost of service development cooperatively and the bringing together of disparate data sources (e.g. Pedigree and performance data from breed societies and Signet respectively) to provide a service that is greater than the sum of its parts will ensure that success.

Database

The database is a Java based software product that allows the program to be built from subcomponents and to re-use business rules already established. The data is stored in an Oracle database on a SUN server. All this means it is leading edge technology using Industry standard protocols on a scaleable database. Its future is assured. It is accessed over the internet so that all users (office staff and farmers alike) use the same program and look at the same data. It is fast enough to be very usable even over a normal dial up internet connection. Over Broadband it is extremely fast.

Performance Recording & Signet

Signet has joined forces with BASCO to create and use a single data source for all performance and pedigree recording. All animal data from any breed that is collected by Signet will be stored on the BASCO database. Obviously, animals already entered on the database by pedigree breeders will be used by Signet when performance records for these animals are generated. This will reduce costs considerably allowing for greater emphasis on development of novel services by both BASCO and Signet. A further benefit of a single data source for all animals will be that farmers themselves could enter data directly on to the database if they so wish. Those without the time or inclination to use computers can still use Signet or BASCO member Societies to input the data for them

Supermarkets and Markets Requirements

The value of the red meat sector is around £9 billion at retail value and the benefit of objective genetic improvement in this sector, at its current modest level of uptake, is calculated to be worth a total of £14 million per year. The amount of value added to a breeder's flock or herd is dependent on the correct choice of sires and then mating those sires to the appropriate dams. The resulting offspring contain the breeders profit presuming that the animals are demanded by the market. The ultimate aim of BASCO founder members is to assist its members in achieving this increased profit by providing relevant information to facilitate the correct breeding decisions being made.

Promoting Performance

Recording A sub-objective of the promotion of genetic indices is to bring about an increase in the number of farmers participating in performance recording. This will have a number of spin-off benefits such as an improvement in the cohesion of producers to a common goal known to have quantifiable benefits. It also provides more accurate EBV's to all breeders which in turn increases confidence in indices leading in turn to an increase in their uptake. At present, performance recording in the sheep sector is low (around 5% of Breed Society members) and only marginally higher in beef (around 10% of Limousin Society members).

Future Developments

The database is under constant development to provide UK breeders the necessary tools and data to compete with all other international meat producers. BASCO see this as a primary objective of the database and indeed for all breed societies and UK meat producers.

Summary

The future for livestock breeders and meat producers will be characterised by more recording and better use of information. The BASCO database has been created to enable breeders to meet those challenges and to exploit information to meet market requirements. The database and the holding company will both develop over time to ensure that BASCO thrives as a means of ensuring its members thrive.