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Farming

Sheep raised at Brussels

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Concern at increase in cheap imports: Farmers seek sheep action

Concern at increase in cheap imports: Farmers seek sheep action

FOR THE SECOND week running, NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe was in Brussels to raise the concerns of the UK sheep and lamb sector.

Charles headed up a delegation of representatives from the UK farming unions who attending a series of meetings. In his role as chairman of the Copa working party on sheep, Charles reported back to a roomful of Copa members on research carried out by the NFU on the imports of New Zealand lamb into the UK and Europe.

The research highlighted that shipments from New Zealand for September 2015 were up 74 per cent compared to September last year. The country has a fixed EU quota of 228,000 tonnes, which used to be composed of whole carcases. More recently, we have seen a move from frozen to fresh, and from carcases to bone-in cuts.

This is a substantive change in trade since the original agreement in the 1980s which is having an effect on the UK and EU sheep market. With talks on new EU-New Zealand trade agreements about to start, the NFU will continue to ensure this point is firmly in the minds of negotiators.

The delegation – made up of John Royle (NFU chief livestock adviser), Crosby Cleland (Ulster Farmers Union livestock board chairman) and Richard Potts (UK farming unions’ policy adviser on livestock) – accompanied Charles to a meeting with the European Commission where further concerns on sheep market transparency were outlined.

Charles highlighted the need for a mandatory EU carcase classification and price reporting system for lamb, similar to current arrangements for the beef and pork sectors. He stressed to the commission that there needed to be a consistent dressing specification across Europe, ensuring greater openness throughout the market. He also called for a mandatory price reporting system to be implemented, urging the commission to review the current legislation and bring sheep meat into line with the other red meat sectors.

The sector would benefit hugely from following the example of the milk market observatory, Charles told officials. The UK farming are anxious to make progress on these concerns and will be writing to the commission to set them out in further detail.

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Farming

Agricultural Society launches search for Ambassador-elect

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PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society are looking to appoint a new Ambassador for 2025 to help support officeholders in promoting and meeting the aims of the Society.

The voluntary role will shadow the 2024 Ambassador at this year’s County Show and other Society events. They will also play an important role in the promotion of the work of the Society, the agricultural industry and rural life in Pembrokeshire. 

The role was awarded to Ffion Edwards during last year’s show. Ffion is a nurse from Maenclochog. She has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, said, “The Ambassador role is an important one. In order to fulfil the role successfully the applicant must have excellent communication skills and an enthusiasm to carry out required duties. Knowledge of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society and the County Show is desirable.”

Anyone aged between 18 and 30 and residing in Pembrokeshire can apply for the role. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview from 7pm on Tuesday, 13 August, at the County Show office. The successful applicant will receive an allowance of £200 and membership of the Society for three years.

Those interested in applying for the position will need to complete the online application form.

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Farming

Farmers Union of Wales announce new head of policy

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THE Farmers Union of Wales is delighted to announce that Gareth Parry has been appointed as Head of Policy just a few days before his wedding.

It was a double celebration for Gareth, born and bred in Llanfarian near Aberystwyth, as he and Catrin, the FUW headquarters Office Manager, were recently married. They have already settled on the family’s dairy, beef and sheep farm in Llanafan, Ceredigion.

Gareth, who graduated from Aberystwyth University with a first class honours degree in agriculture and business studies, has been working for the Union as a Policy Officer for the past five years. He recently led the Union’s 20,000 word response to the Welsh Government’s most recent Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation. He is the public face of the Union supporting the President in meetings at both Westminster and the Senedd, including regularly meeting with the Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary and his team. He also meets and guides members throughout Wales and is regularly seen interviewed by the media.

Gareth has already started in his role and is proud of the work that the Union achieves: “I am extremely proud of this opportunity and grateful to everyone for their support over the last few busy months. We have a team of hard-working staff with great expertise at the FUW and it is a privilege to work with them as we represent the interests of our members.

“I’m looking forward to the agricultural shows over the summer months, the opportunity to chat with Welsh farmers, to discuss the issues of the day with other organisations and to prepare for the next exciting period for the industry. It is no mean feat to set a new agricultural support policy for Wales as it is the foundation of the countryside, the economy, culture and heritage. I’m looking forward to playing a part in this important historical moment for Wales’ rural communities.”

When the Union’s work allows, Gareth has a keen interest in car rallies and has competed on many occasions with his co-driver. Navigating these off road tracks with his driving partner, Scott Faulkner, they came home with the ‘British Trials and Rally Drivers Association’ cup back in 2019. The new head of policy has travelled the world rallying and he also enjoys restoring cars and vehicles.

Welcoming the appointment, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We are delighted that Gareth has been appointed FUW’s Head of Policy. He is an accomplished, professional and intellectual ambassador for agriculture. We are very fortunate to have benefited from his expertise and sharp mind during the past few months. We look forward to continuing to work with Gareth, as we step into the next part of this important journey within Welsh agriculture.

Guto Bebb, FUW Chief Executive said: “Many congratulations to Gareth on his appointment to this prominent role and to Catrin and him on their recent wedding. We are proud of the quality of our staff and are grateful to all our staff members throughout Wales for their dedication to the Union.

“Whilst we celebrate Gareth’s announcement, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Nick Fenwick, our former Head of Policy for his work for the FUW and for Welsh agriculture. Nick’s contribution to the Union’s work and the industry during a long period of time is very much appreciated. Staff and members have had the privilege of working with an agricultural expert who showed great commitment and professionalism to working on behalf of Welsh farmers. We wish him and his family well for the future.”

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Farming

Why every Welsh farm should set a goal to increase soil organic carbon

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REDUCING soil disturbance, growing cover crops and increasing plant diversity will help Welsh farms better cope with future climate challenges.

As the industry moves towards utilising more sustainable food production techniques, the goal of every farm should be to increase soil organic carbon, insists Neil Fuller, an expert in the science of soil management.

At a recent Farming Connect soil health event at Treathro Farm, a beef farm near Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, where David and Debbie Best are trialling different soil management practices, Mr Fuller said soil health offered significant sustainability and productivity outcomes for farm businesses.

As a starting point, he recommended getting an active measurement of the health of farm soils – its biological, physical and chemical health.

From microscopic fungi and bacteria to earthworms and beetles, soil contains billions of organisms.

“Most are beneficial to crops and perform a variety of functions, from breaking down organic matter and improving soil structure and drainage,’’ said Mr Fuller.

Many will also act as predators for pests, reducing the need for chemicals.

Earthworms are good indicators of soil health as they are sensitive to pH, waterlogging, compaction, rotations, tillage and organic matter.

Their numbers and distribution across a field can reveal what is going on under the surface.

Mr Fuller brought this message to life with a ‘soil safari’ by examining different soils and worm activity under a high-powered microscope and shared on a big screen.

Farm soils should have three types of earthworms – surface, topsoil and deep-burrowing earthworms.

Small surface worms live and feed on surface litter and organic amendments, topsoil earthworms are found in the topsoil, forming horizontal burrows that mix the soil and mobilise nutrients, and deep-burrowing earthworms make deep, vertical burrows.

While most soils have topsoil worms, the absence of surface and deep-burrowing worms suggest that the soil has been overworked and soil functioning is compromised.

Mr Fuller said the physical structure of the soil also needs to be considered.

If soil is compacted, there is less room for plant roots to grow and for air and water to circulate.

Compacted soils have lower infiltration and drainage rates, as well as reduced biological activity, plant root growth and yields.

They are also less able to cope with weather extremes, warned Mr Fuller.

Chemical properties are also important to soil health. Maintaining the optimum pH level and adequate supply of plant nutrients helps to support crop growth.

At Treathro, the Bests are working with Farming Connect to examine the impact of different management techniques and sward types on soil microbiology.

There are four trial fields: in one the Bests are rotational grazing their Red Devon suckler herd on permanent pasture and in another they intend to grow a minimum tillage herbal ley.

The other two trial sites are a field of perennial ryegrass and white clover used for haylage and a cliff-top field that is an SSSI and only lightly grazed by ponies.

Non Williams, Farming Connect Carbon Specialist Officer, said the average soil carbon stock in the top 10cm of soil was founds to be highest in the cliff top field, at 62.2 tonnes a hectare (t/ha), while in the rotationally grazed permanent pasture it was 51t/hectare (ha).

In the field used for haylage, it was 45.7t/ha and 41.7t/ha in remaining field.

Dr Williams said that at greater soil depth, 30-50cm below ground, the average soil carbon stock was highest – 30.4t/ha – in the perennial ryegrass and clover field used for haylage.

The project is also examining the levels of beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes in the soil at Treathro.

Lynfa Davies, Farming Connect Biodiversity Specialist Officer, said this had shown that there were very dominant levels of beneficial bacteria.

Ideally fungi levels should be higher but she suggested low levels were typical of many agricultural soils.

“This can be improved through regenerative practices such as using deep-rooted leys using min-till methods which allow fungi to proliferate,’’ said Ms Davies.

Using less artificial fertilisers and increasing soil carbon will also help, she added.

But she warned that improving soil health is not a rapid process.

“It is important to remember that building soil health takes time and it may take several years before significant changes are seen,’’ said Ms Davies.

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