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Reducing nitrogen emissions from cattle



Forage fed cows: Reducing dairy farming's pollution

SCIENTISTS at Aberystwyth University are leading a new international research project to find ways of reducing nitrogen pollution from dairy production.

​​The Horizon 2020 funded Cowficie​N​cy project involves the exchange of staff between commercial and academic partners to upgrade and implement dairy cow diet formulation models, to increase the efficiency of nitrogen use on dairy farms.

Scientists at the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are working with four industry partners that consult on thousands of European dairy farms, and five prestigious European and American academic institutions.

Dr Jon Moorby is leading the work at IBERS: “Dairy cows are good at producing highly nutritious food for us from feedstuffs that we cannot eat. However, they can have negative impacts on the wider environment, by excreting excess nitrogen.

“We know from a scientific standpoint how we can minimise this to reduce pollution from dairy production, although relatively few strategies have been converted into agricultural practice because of the lack of research linking through to on-farm application by the dairy industry.

“The Cowficie​n​cy project is addressing this by providing tools that can help the dairy industry shift towards more efficient and less polluting methods”, added Dr Moorby.

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient used by farmers worldwide in both feeds (as protein) and fertilisers.

Used strategically, it increases pasture growth and is a key element in the production of meat and milk.

However, it is continually cycling through the soil, atmosphere and the farm system and its extended use has led to considerable negative effects on the environment.

The Cowficie​n​cy team will be working with farms in Europe to familiarize and accommodate them in describing their nitrogen balance situation using two mathematical models, one cow-based, and the other herd-based.

The models will be updated for amino acid metabolism in the framework of the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS), and include aspects of heifer growth and cattle fertility and economics to encompass the whole lifetime of the animals, increasing not only the accuracy of the models but also their commercial potential.

The final phase of the project will see the implementation of the upgraded models on participating CowficieNcy project farms.

Dr Moorby added​:​ “Increasing the efficiency of nitrogen use in lactating dairy cows will reduce nitrogen pollution from dairy production, and ultimately save the farmer money.”


Future farm policy must not be piecemeal



James Gray: TFA Chair calls for holistic approach

THE TENANT Farmers Association’s National Chairman James Gray has stressed the importance of Government seeing the bigger picture in the development of post Brexit agricultural policy.

Speaking to the TFA’s AGM in London, Mr Gray warned about the dangers of addressing specific policy elements in isolation from the wider context within which farming operates.

“With the country’s decision to leave the European Union in a little over a year’s time, we have a unique opportunity to build a policy for agriculture on our own terms rather than those which have been the result of compromise with the other 27 Member States of the European Union. To do this successfully, the Government must work systematically,” said Mr Gray.

“Put at its most basic, what the new policy framework must address is how to ensure that as a nation we continue to deliver to consumers safe, good quality food, produced to high environmental, ethical and animal welfare standards at prices they can afford and which provide adequate returns to the farming community to cover costs, provide a living and produce a profit which enables reinvestment. It sounds simple to say but more complicated to deliver. It is only recently that we have seen something of the Government’s intention to address this conundrum and it is fair to say that we are some way off achieving a solid basis for taking this forward,” said Mr Gray.

“There will be much to do over the coming months to hone the future policy environment to ensure that we are ready for the brave new world beyond any implementation period agreed with the EU; notwithstanding the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal. The publication of the Government’s 64 page consultation document is a step along the way but it lacks sufficient detail in areas such as correcting market failures within supply chains, protecting animal welfare and environmental standards for food at our borders, promoting structural change and dealing with the challenges of labour supply both in primary agriculture and for first processors. All these areas have equal importance with the future of the Basic Payment and Agri-environment schemes about which the consultation has more to say,” said Mr Gray.

The TFA has also been encouraging landlords and tenants to use the pre-Brexit period for productive discussions about how both parties intend to deal with the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead and leaving discussions about levels of rent until later.

“With so much uncertainty the TFA has been encouraging tenant farmers to ensure that they are in a position to have a rent review available in either the autumn of next year or the spring of the following year when we should know more about the future of our relationship with the EU and the policy environment within which we will be operating,” said Mr Gray.

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FUW fights for fair funding for farming



Alan Davies: Barnett formula must not set farm funding

T​HE FARMERS’ UNION OF WALES has launched its ‘Fair Farm Funding’ campaign to highlight the urgent need for the UK Government to clarify funding for the sector in Wales, at its Grand Council meeting in Aberystwyth.

The campaign aims to secure fair funding for farmers in Wales after leaving the EU, ensuring that the industry does not receive less than it did before the UK left the European Union. It also insists that funding for farming should not be subject to the Barnett Formula.

Launching the campaign at the Union’s Grand Council, Managing Director Alan Davies said: “Historically the funding to support farming in Wales has come from the Common Agricultural Policy, but once the UK leaves the EU in March next year that link will be broken.

“Any funding to support agriculture will have to come from the UK Treasury. We’ve already heard that the Government will commit the same amount of funding to agriculture for the rest of this parliament. But there are complexities around how that funding might be allocated.

“If the UK Treasury matches, as is expected, the current EU payments of £3.5 billion to DEFRA to support UK agriculture, there are at least 2 ways in which that money can be allocated to Wales. One method and the one most often used in UK Government financial calculations is to use the Barnett Formula.”

Mr Davies explained that when “new” money is allocated to a government department, generally the “Barnett consequential” for Wales is around 5.6% of the total money allocated. That means that if DEFRA receive £3.5 billion, the “Consequential” for Wales will be around £196 million.

“Wales has historically received around 9.4% of the total EU CAP budget allocation to the UK. That would equate to £329 million. Barnett would reduce our funding by around 40% and that must not happen.

“In order to deliver Fair Farm Funding for Wales it is therefore essential that the UK Government allocate funds outside the Barnett formula. Wales urgently needs certainty that we will receive at least our historical share of the UK’s agricultural and rural development budget promised by Secretary of State Michael Gove, especially as the budget for next year needs to be in place by October this year,” he added.

Quoting Carwyn Jones the First Minister of Wales, Mr Davies told delegates that: “To achieve this will require a new way of working and the FUW was pleased to hear Welsh Government recognise that ‘agricultural funding will have to be held in a separate pot and dealt with in a different way’.”

FUW President Glyn Roberts added: “This year we celebrate 40 years of being formally recognised by the UK Government to exclusively speak on behalf of the farmers of Wales, and let me be clear, there have been few times during that period where the need for our Union has been greater – to fight for not just the survival of our family farms but for a prosperous future for our members and all those who make a living from agriculture.

“With this in mind, we are pleased to officially launch our ‘Fair Farm Funding’ campaign here today.”

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Warning on liver fluke rise



West Wales: Chronic fluke reported

THE PREDICTION by the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) for a high risk of liver fluke disease in North, West and central Scotland, West Wales and Cornwall this winter have been borne out by incidences recorded over recent months.

Given the risk to both sheep and cattle, SCOPS and COWS have come together to remind producers that the high-risk warning followed a year with one of the wettest summers on record and higher than average rainfall in many parts of Great Britain. The risk in Eastern Scotland and parts of South West and Northern England is predicted to be medium and most of Central and Eastern regions of England were forecast to be at low risk.

Recent reports from members of SCOPS and COWS, including SAC Veterinary Services, APHA and others, support this general situation – but there are localised variations. This means it is very important that farmers talk to their vet, SQP or advisor to find out what is happening in their area, and decide what tests and risk assessment they need to carry out to investigate the situation on their own farm.

Now that we are into late winter, more cases of chronic and sub–acute liver fluke are being seen as the parasite matures in the host. Highlights of reports collated by SCOPS and COWS are as follows:


In Scotland, SRUC report that in terms of liver fluke incidence as a % of total submissions, 2017/18 has been the highest winter level since 2012/13.

In Wales, numerous cases have been reported by APHA. In January and February, cases of chronic fluke in Western England and West Wales are reported.

In Cumbria, cases of sub-acute and chronic liver fluke have been reported with chronic liver fluke in North Yorkshire.

In the Bristol area, abortions in a flock have were associated with the presence of liver fluke disease.

A large Welsh abattoir reports a further increase in lamb liver condemnations due to fluke, rising from 2.8% in October to 5% in November and from 7.3% in January to 10.5% in February. This is significantly higher than the same month a year ago (7.8%) and underlines the fact that this winter is carrying a higher risk.

SCOPS and COWS provide this advice to producers:

Reports of disease continue mainly from high-risk areas, but farmers should seek local information, assess risk and use tests, abattoir feedback and post mortems to inform on-farm control measures.

Re‐infection (when treated animals are put back on to contaminated areas) is still a concern. Farmers need to remember that flukicides do not have any persistent activity. We also now need to be thinking about chronic / sub-acute disease as fluke mature and damage the liver.

Poor pregnancy scanning results in sheep may be the first indication that there is a liver fluke problem on the farm and may be limited to only one group of sheep depending on the group’s autumn/winter grazing history.

Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up-to-date. Black disease is a major cause of losses in cattle (and sheep) that have livers damaged by liver fluke.

While most cases of disease are associated with sheep, cases of liver fluke are being reported in cattle (11% of cattle submissions to SRUC have been associated with liver fluke disease this winter). It is essential that cattle farmers are aware of the risks and discuss sampling/testing/flukicide options for different stock with their vet to avoid disease.

Product choice is critical.

This latter part of the liver fluke season is the time to consider taking pressure off triclabendazole products and swap to alternatives. These include closantel, nitroxynil and products that kill adult fluke, such as oxyclozanide, albendazole (and clorsulon for cattle).

Note restrictions on the use of flukicides in milking cows.

The SCOPS website and COWS website have specific pages providing information on suitable products to use.

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