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Farming

Farmers urged to take up free sheep scab testing service

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NFU Cymru is encouraging Welsh sheep farmers to make use of a new free sheep scab testing service, while also urging that funding for a full eradication programme is brought forward as soon as possible.

The news comes after Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths MS, confirmed at last week’s NFU Cymru Conference that funds previously earmarked for a sheep scab eradication programme had been reprioritised as part of efforts to tackle Covid-19. The Minister did, however, acknowledge that sheep scab remains a serious threat to the industry and pledged that securing funding for this project remained a priority.

NFU Cymru is endorsing the Minister’s call for Welsh farmers to take advantage of the free examination of skin scrape samples from sheep showing suspected clinical signs of sheep scab. The scheme is operated by the APHA and funded by the Welsh Government, running until 31st March 2021. The initiative will aid accurate diagnosis, which is a prerequisite for appropriate treatment and successful control of sheep scab; a priority of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework. The scheme will also encourage sheep farmers to work with their veterinary surgeon to protect their flocks from sheep scab.

The free sheep scab testing service will see testing undertaken at APHA Carmarthen VIC, which is also the centre of expertise for disease surveillance of extensively managed livestock. Samples will be received in the usual way, via the farmer’s veterinary surgeon, and should be posted directly to Carmarthen VIC.  Sample submissions must be accompanied by full clinical history to qualify for free testing.

Samples can be submitted on a general submission form found on the Vet Gateway or through ADTS https://www.gov.uk/animal-disease-testing.

NFU Cymru Livestock Chairman Wyn Evans said: “Sheep scab is an absolutely dreadful disease with serious welfare and production implications if it is not accurately diagnosed and treated promptly and effectively. It is a disease that we really need to get on top in this country and I would encourage farmers across Wales to contact their vets and make use of this testing opportunity.

“Stakeholders from the sheep sector in Wales have developed and put forward to Welsh Government an eradication plan for sheep scab and we were pleased that in January 2019 the Minister committed £5 million of Wales RDP funding for sheep scab eradication. I am extremely disappointed that this funding has still not been allocated to the industry, but in response to a question I asked on this matter at the NFU Cymru Conference yesterday, I feel somewhat reassured that the Minister recognises the importance of this money being made available to support the industry initiative.

“I was heartened that whilst the Minister said that she has had to delay the £5 million funding because of reprioritisation of the budget due to Covid-19, she gave an assurance that the scheme is at the top of her priorities when looking at future budget allocations.”

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Farming

A vision for Welsh upland farming

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NEW NFU Cymru report highlights the unique contribution that the Welsh upland farming community makes to food security, environment, the economy, rural communities and the Welsh language.

The NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming report, which was underpinned by a survey of over 750 farmers, was launched at the Vision for Welsh Upland Farming virtual conference on Tuesday, November 24.
The document reveals that 96% of farmers surveyed believed their role as food producers was very important or fairly important, with 95% saying that food production and sales were very important or fairly important to the viability of their business.

88% said it was very important that future Welsh agricultural policy should underpin food production and ensure consumers have a stable supply of affordable food.
The biggest worry for Welsh upland farmers to surface from the research was farm business profitability, with 85% of those questioned stating this was a ‘significant threat’ to the sector. The vast majority of those questioned (92%) said it was vital that future Welsh farming policy included measures that ensured farmers could make a reasonable living.
However, just 18% of farmers answering the poll felt Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals to replace the CAP were very good or fairly good at specifically addressing the needs of upland farming, with 37% labelling the proposals fairly poor or very poor.
With the Brexit transition period coming to an end, 84% of farmers surveyed said that future trade deals were a significant threat to upland farming, while 80% stated that future policy was a significant threat.
NFU Cymru said the findings of this research work provide ‘another compelling argument’ as to why future Welsh agricultural policy should include a stability measure to help ensure the safe supply of food and as an economic foundation in rural communities, alongside the other multiple benefits provided by Welsh farming, amid changing trade and climate conditions.
The new NFU Cymru study also shined a light on Welsh upland farmers’ attitudes towards the environment.
80% of those surveyed had carried out one or more environmental actions on the farm in the last 10 years, while 83% said that future policy measures to tackle climate change were very important or fairly important. 54% of farmers surveyed were in Glastir agri-environment schemes and together had delivered more than 70 different environmental actions on Welsh farms.
The survey data further emphasises farmers’ role as drivers of the rural economy. 30% of farmers surveyed said their business supports or buys from 21 to 50 different businesses, with a further 10% stating that their business trades with or buys from more than 51 other businesses.
The important contribution of Welsh upland farming to rural communities and Welsh culture was also revealed.
83% of respondents were involved in one or more voluntary activities within their community, while over half of those answering the survey identified themselves as fluent Welsh speakers.
Diversification remains an important income stream for many Welsh farms; 43% of farmers responding to the survey stated that they had a non-farming element to their business. The most popular diversification enterprises were renewable energy (43%) and accommodation (42%).
Discussing the importance of NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming project, NFU Cymru LFA Board Chair Kath Whitrow said: “In recent years, despite their extent and significance, we have seen upland farming policy de-emphasised. As our relationship with the EU changes, the economic rationale for upland livestock production is threatened. Global environmental challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity decline, are viewed by some as drivers for land-use change without any consideration of the wider impacts.
“At this pivotal time for Welsh farming as we transition out of the CAP and into a new ‘made in Wales’ agricultural policy, the NFU Cymru LFA Board wants to ensure that the voice of Welsh upland farming is clearly heard in this debate. This is a message that has resonated strongly with Welsh upland farmers and, despite the limitations placed on us as a result of Covid-19, the voice of farmers across Wales has been clearly heard with our survey attracting a fantastic number of responses.”
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “The Vision for Welsh Upland Farming report launched at today’s conference is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research work undertaken by NFU Cymru. Its findings are of strategic importance not just to the people living and working in the Welsh uplands, but to the whole of Wales.
“This research provides another compelling argument that future Welsh agricultural policy should include a stability measure to support farmers by protecting them against the increased volatility that affects businesses, trade and production. Such backing would ensure our farmers can continue providing safe, affordable food, as well as boosting the economy, enhancing the environment, caring for our cherished landscapes communities and being champions of Welsh language, culture and rural communities.
“I urge our policymakers in Cardiff Bay to carefully consider the report’s key recommendations and work with us to ensure that the people and communities of the Welsh uplands can continue to deliver for the whole of Wales.”
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Farming

Potato production up despite tough year

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THE TOTAL harvest of British potatoes this year will be 5.3m tonnes according to provisional estimates – up two point eight per cent (2.8%) on last year’s figure but just below the five-year average of 5.4m tonnes.
This estimate by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has been released during a time when growers have battled an exceptionally wet harvest period for the second year running.
They have fared better than last year, as on 10 November it was estimated that two per cent of the planted area was yet to be lifted. This compares with 11 per cent of the crop that was estimated to be unlifted on 12 November 2019.
This production figure follows an AHDB estimate that the planted area this year is the third-lowest on record.
Alice Bailey, Senior Analyst at AHDB said: “This overall net yield sits in line with the five-year national average (2015-2019). Anecdotal reports suggest that yields have been somewhat variable from farm to farm, even field to field. Yet overall, crops are within farm expectations so it is not surprising that the national yield is in line with recent years.
“We saw planted area drop by two-point three per cent this year, yet we are estimating a two-point eight per cent rise in production. This is based on both a slight increase in yields year-on-year and the fact that a large area was left unharvested last year. The unlifted area in 2019 was estimated at six per cent, whereas in 2018 less than one per cent was estimated to be left in the ground and we would anticipate similar this year.”
It was also noted that the estimate could be amended in the coming weeks, with 2.1Kha still to harvest in the East of England, and some members of the 450 strong AHDB Grower Panel still to return their survey information.

WINTER MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Meanwhile, Potatoes Strategy Director Rob Clayton announced that AHDB would be launching another promotional campaign in reaction to the market conditions caused by the coronavirus. This follows on from a similar campaign in the summer that reached 5 million shoppers via catch-up TV, social media and display advertising.
“Since the pandemic hit we have increased the amount of data we analyse from supermarkets and other areas of the marketplace. While potato sales at retail are up eight to nine per cent overall – analysis from Kantar Worldpannel shows baking potatoes lagging behind at a rise of three per cent.
“Jacket potatoes are a fantastic healthy and cost-effective option for families, so we will be launching a winter campaign to inspire shoppers to take advantage of all the great things they can do with bakers,” said Doctor Clayton.

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Farming

Advice to poultry owners as avian flu prevention zone established

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A PREVENTION zone to protect poultry and captive birds from a strain of avian flu has been declared in Wales, following confirmed cases in the UK.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Animal Health and Welfare Team are now warning poultry owners to keep their birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

The Welsh Government has introduced enhanced biosecurity requirements to mitigate the risk of infection following recent confirmed cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 in England.

A veterinary risk assessment for Great Britain shows that the risk level for disease in wild birds is now ‘high’. The risk associated with direct and indirect transmission to poultry has also increased to ‘medium’

Although there are currently no findings of avian influenza in Wales, the Wales-wide avian prevention zone has been introduced as a precautionary measure in response to the increased risk level.

All keepers of poultry and other captive birds, irrespective of how they are kept, are now required to take the following steps:

  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
  • Feed and water birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds
  • Minimise movement of people in and out of bird enclosures
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas and fencing off wet or boggy areas

Keepers with more than 500 birds are required to take some extra biosecurity measures, including restricting access to non-essential people, changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.

The Welsh Government is continuing to monitor the situation closely and has increased its surveillance activity.

Lucy Thomas, Lead Officer with the Council’s Animal Health Team, said: “Poultry keepers should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds or any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from a vet if they have any concerns.

“Pembrokeshire County Council and Welsh Government have Animal Health Disease Contingency Plans in place for dealing with an avian influenza outbreak, should one occur in the area”

More information on avian influenza can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

 

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