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Farming

Dairy report will inform farming policy

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Preparing for the future: Report shows profitable dairy farming possible

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ says that a new report into the Welsh dairy industry will help farmers improve the performance and resilience of their businesses and prepare for the future post Brexit.

In 2017, the Welsh Government provided £3.2 million of European conditional aid to Welsh dairy farmers through two schemes focusing on farm business benchmarking and herd milk recording.

An encouraging 75% of dairy farmers took up the opportunity – the highest level of uptake in the UK. Along with aid funding, farmers also received a bespoke report showing the strengths and weaknesses of their business with a comparison with other dairy farms.

KEY FINDINGS

Invaluable data produced from the benchmarking scheme was used to produce a providing a snapshot of Welsh dairy farm performance. Key findings include:

The importance of farmers constantly measuring the financial performance of their business to help them become more efficient;

the top performing farms demonstrate that profitable dairy farming is possible with excellent returns, even in difficult trading conditions;

some farms, have costs of production which are higher than the milk price has ever reached;

farmers should take advantage of the plentiful supply of grass and maximise the milk they produce from grass and forage;

farmers who have made a conscious choice about their production system tend to be more profitable; and
maintaining high standards of animal health and welfare reduced the financial impact of diseases and can give the industry a competitive advantage.

SUPPORT TO BE TAILORED

Support to help dairy farmers address the issues identified in the report is available through the Welsh Government’s Farming Connect programme and via the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Dairy.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “The approach we adopted to providing aid to our dairy farmers has provided us with useful data on the performance of the industry in Wales.

“The report published today will go a long way to help farmers improve the performance of their business by reducing their costs of production. This will improve the efficiency of our dairy farms, allowing them to become more resilient to business risks and milk price volatility.

“As a government, our priority is to work with everyone affected to prepare for a world outside the European Union and for a resilient agricultural sector. This report will provide invaluable information to help us decide how best to support the dairy sector to prepare for the future.

“While the report shows profitable dairy farming is possible, I am particularly concerned that some Welsh dairy farms have costs of production which are higher than the milk price has ever reached. That is why I am in the process of tailoring the support we offer these farms to help them re-evaluate the structure of their business and use their benchmarking report to see where improvements can be made.

“It is clear from the report that by becoming more efficient and focusing on producing milk at a lower cost of production, all farms can become more profitable, no matter what the milk price is.

“Brexit presents significant challenges to the agriculture industry but also opportunities. The industry, and individual farmers, must start to plan now for the future.

“The long term outlook for the dairy sector is good with global demand forecasted to increase year on year. Our dairy farmers need to be competitive and market focused to compete with the best in the world. If this happens then I firmly believe our dairy farmers have a bright future.

“I encourage all Welsh dairy farmers and the wider industry to use the available data to help them prepare for the post Brexit world; to help make their businesses both resilient and prosperous.”

NFU WELCOMES REPORT

NFU Cymru has welcomed the publication of report.

Gareth Richards NFU Cymru Milk Board Chairman and dairy farmer from Carmarthenshire said: “Milk production is a major contributor to the gross output of Welsh agriculture. This report shows the vulnerability and volatility of the sector but also highlights opportunities available to individual producers and to the sector as a whole in Wales.

“Through the production of individual reports for contributors this has enabled farming businesses to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business by benchmarking against others.

“As the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, has said, tailored packages are now available for individual producers to move their business on and future proof them for the potential massive changes Brexit will bring. I would encourage all 1,700 milk producers in Wales to make use of services that AHDB Dairy and Farming Connect can offer both on an individual farm level and in participative group activity.”

NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones said: “The data captured as part of this EU conditional aid scheme is invaluable not just for farmers to help them identify where to target performance improvements on farm, but also for policy makers to help design and implement policies that ensure we can achieve our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable industry in Wales.

“The opportunity to collect data that Welsh Government requires to meet climate change and environmental obligations is also invaluable and this project provides a baseline against which to measure future progress.

“As part of a comprehensive post-Brexit agriculture policy for Wales, NFU Cymru believes the incentivised collection of key performance data should be an integral part of a new policy based around our three cornerstones of productivity, environment and volatility measures. Collection of key data around production, farm structure, financial, environmental and Greenhouse gas emissions can help inform decision making at farm and national policy level. The data collected can also help underpin the credentials of ‘Brand Wales’, a concept based on providing Wales with a unique selling point to market the full range of goods and services provided by Welsh farming.
“We hope the success of this scheme can now be built upon and replicated not just for the dairy sector but also to all the key farming sectors in Wales.”

Farming

2019 ‘a step into the unknown’

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IN HIS New Year Message Kevin Roberts, chair of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has said that never has a year brought such uncertainty, due to the ongoing political deadlock over Brexit.

Mr Roberts emphasised that the red meat industry, which brings £200m a year in export income for Wales and boasts the world-renowned PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef brands, was one of the sectors with most to lose.

WTO Tariffs, which are likely to be levied in the absence of a deal, are 5-10% on many types of goods but on fresh red meat, they range from 40-80%. Independent studies have also identified the sheep sector, which is heavily dependent on exports of its premium-quality produce, as particularly vulnerable to a disruption in European trade.

HCC Chair Kevin Roberts said, “Throughout the past year, I’ve said time and again that the future is fundamentally bright for our industry. We have top-quality produce, brands which are recognised throughout the world, extremely dedicated producers and an industry which pulls in the same direction in promoting high standards in meat quality, welfare and sustainability.

“However, as 2019 dawns we find ourselves standing on a cliff edge,” he said. “Independent reports project a fall of 30% or more in farm-gate prices if there’s a chaotic Brexit, and farmers need certainty in order to invest and continue to develop their businesses.

“HCC is working with Government and others to put contingency plans in place as far as we can,” added Mr Roberts, “but the uncertainty and the range of potential outcomes are so great – just three months before the exit date – that the complexity involved is immense.

“Our industry’s New Year wish is simple; to be able to trade freely and fairly and have some certainty for the future.”

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Farming

NSA hits back at vegan campaign

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THE ARRIVAL of a new year is often a time of optimism, of making plans for the year ahead, but increasingly for livestock farmers, January is now the time producers find themselves arguing a torrent of false claims of crimes against animal welfare, the environment and human health that the media are so quick to promote as part of ‘Veganuary’.

And this year, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is ready to fight back against what it says is ‘a misguided and misleading campaign’.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Make no doubt about it, behind the positive messages about Veganuary lies a well-coordinated campaign against livestock farming. Our concern is that our unique grass-based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.

“We are seeing criticisms from welfare campaigners, rewilders, climate change campaigners, and health campaigners – but all these are connected and ignore the fact that UK sheep farming works very much in harmony with our environment, our landscapes, and our human ecology – creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food product that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet.

“The climate change arguments that have been buoyed by the recent Paris Climate Change Summit ignore the fact that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass-based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations. Even more misleading is that the carbon footprinting tools we use do not take account of whole life cycles and ignore the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce. I would go as far to suggest that ‘organic greenhouse gas cycling’ from grazed livestock should be treated separately from gas emissions derived from fossil fuels.”

NSA says the UK should be seeking to maintain or even increase sheep numbers here in the UK, related to market demand, but further encourage the distribution into areas that are devoid of livestock in order to provide the multi-functional outcomes that people are interested in today.

Mr Stocker concludes: “In the UK sheep are a form of positive and regenerative agriculture which keep our uplands and permanent pastures in good condition and improve our cropping lands in terms of soil quality and the ecological benefits of a return to mixed farming.

“Some people seem hell-bent on portraying sheep as a global enemy, but in fact, they are the ultimate in renewable technology and are an efficient form of productive land management that is planet friendly.”

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Farming

Sheep and goat inventory

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NFU CYMRU is reminding farmers that the 2019 Annual Sheep and Goat Inventory forms must be returned by February 1.

The form is a legal requirement and must be returned by no later than Friday, February 1, to avoid an increased risk of being selected for an inspection. The form should include the number of sheep and goats of which the farmer is the registered keeper, by CPH location, on January 1, 2019. Farmers must also record the number of sheep and goats on January 1 in their on-farm flock record to avoid a potential cross-compliance penalty.

Sheep and goat keepers have the option of completing the form online via www.eidcymru.org. However, keepers must have registered to EIDCymru prior to submitting the online inventory return. If you are completing the form electronically, you do not need to return the paper form

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