As you can appreciate, there are a wide range of issues and matters discussed at Society Council meetings, many of which are either confidential or commercially sensitive. The following is an update of relevant matters and discussions arising from the December 2017 Council Meeting which can be shared on a public forum.

1.       Adoption of Annual Accounts

The annual report and accounts were presented for the year ending 30 September 2017 and it was pleasing to note that they show an operating surplus in the Profit and Loss account. It was also noted that there had been an 80% increase in investment in breed promotion in 2017. The Accounts will be circulated before the AGM in February 2018.

2.       Branch Chair Forum Feedback

The main purpose of the Branch Chairs’ Forum that was held in Stoneleigh Park on Tuesday 24th October 2017, was to improve communications and connectivity between the ‘Society’ and the members by providing an opportunity for feedback, but more importantly to identify key issues facing the Society, explore the options and where applicable, recommend solutions. All branches were represented (mainly chair and secretary) and everyone contributed to the discussions. The key message coming from the forum was that the Society needed to develop a more commercial focus. It was also emphasised that there needed to be tangible progress on the issues raised and discussed.

3.       Genomics (Breed Development)

The collection of Genomic data and parentage testing has been a topic of discussion in the Society for some time. With this in mind, the Society has been talking to Neogen, the world’s leading commercial agricultural genomics lab,regarding the creation of a Suffolk Sheep Genomic Database.Council unanimously agreed that the Society will start to create a Genomic Database to facilitate future breed development. From May 2018, ram registrations will require a genomics report including a DNA parentage test. The DNA markers (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism or SNPs) are not only used for parentage testing, but also will include individual SNPs that are associated with, or causative for, certain conditions including Scrapie, Achondroplasia, Maedi Visni Virus resistance/susceptibility, Hairy Lamb, Callipyge, SpiderLamb, Inherited chondrodysplasia, Booroola, Horn poll and Myostatin. The full genotype test costs £25 plus VAT (parentage test £15 plus VAT) and will be charged to the breeder registering the ram, however, it was agreed that the Society will pay £10 plus VAT of the fee,initially for the first year with a view to extending it for a further 2 years. This subsidy would be per test. Further information will be circulated to all members in January 2018. 

4.       Commercial Committee

It was agreed that the Society should have a more commercially focused approach and that a new Committee would be established to progress this matter. Representatives from performance recording breeders, other commercially focused breeders and Council will make up the committee.

5.       New Society Database

Over the last 9 months the Chair and Chief Executive have been heavily involved in discussions and negotiations regarding the provision of IT services for maintaining and supporting the Society database. An options appraisal was presented to Council at the May 2017 Council meeting and the decision in principle was taken to actively pursue an alternative to BASCO. At the December 2017 meeting, Council formally approved the migration of the Society Database from BASCO to Grassroots. The target is to have this completed by March 2018. Further information will be sent to all members in January 2018.

6.       Credit Control

It was agreed by Council that Bye Law 5.1 would be strictly enforced. The Bye Law states that  “A Member who owes any sum to the Society (whether in respect of their membership subscription or otherwise) shall not be entitled to have their flock or any sheep registered or (as the case may be) re-registered with the Society, be excluded from Society Sales, shows, events and publications unless and until they pay all such monies in full.  The Society has the right to charge interest on outstanding balances.” It was also emphasised that new members have to pay by direct debit and that members in arrears who pay by cheque must sign direct debit mandates.  

7.       Restrictions on Society Sales (ET control)

Council decided not to introduce restrictions on the number of Society Sale entries based on the number of ewes in a flock. This decision was based on the results of an analysis of the impact ET was having on inbreeding in the National Flock. The conclusion was that as only 5% of notified births are ET lambs, and that this percentage has remained constant for the last 3 years, introducing such a ban would have a negligible effect on in-breeding. The position will be reviewed again in December 2020. The analysis is available on request from the Society Office.

8.       Early Lambing Inspections

This lambing season will see the introduction of council inspection at selected farms. The results of the inspections will be discussed at the February 2018 Council Meeting. 

9.       Council

At present, council meet 4 times per year.  It was agreed by a majority decision that the number of scheduled Council meetings would be reduced to 3 with the proviso that an additional meeting could be organised if required.   

Provided Council Members are re-selected by branches, there is no limit on the length of time Members can stay on Council.  Whilst most members agreed that limiting the term of council members was good in principle it could be difficult to implement.  The Chief Executive is to table a paper at the February 2018 meeting outlining a range of options.

It will be proposed at the next AGM to increase the number of members to 18 consisting of 16 elected council members and an extra 2 co-opted members if required.  

10.    Proposed President Elect

It was agreed that Susan O’Keeffe (Clyda Flock) would be proposed as president elect for 2018.

11.    National Flock Competition Judge 2018

It was agreed that Andrew Wilson (Castleisle Flock) would be invited to judge the 2018 National Flock Competition. 

12.    Key Dates – 2018

National Flock Competition – May/June 2018

National Show and Sale – 20th & 21st July 2018

Stirling Show and Sale – 26th & 27th July 2018

NI Branch Show & Sale – 31st July 2018

Carlisle Show & Sale – 3rd August 2018

Roscrea Show & Sale – 4th August 2018

13.    2018/19 Council Meeting Dates and Locations

Tuesday 27th February 2018 (Council & AGM) – Edinburgh

Thursday 17th May 2018 (Council) – Belfast

Wednesday 5th December 2018 (Council) – TBC

Wednesday 27th February 2019 (Council & AGM) – South of Ireland

Robin McIlrath

Chief Executive & Breed Secretary

19th December 2017