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No magic bullet for improving lamb production, FUW farm visit told

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no magicIMPROVING the efficiency of lamb production was the main topic of discussion during a Farmers’ Union of Wales-organised visit to independent sheep consultant Catherine Nakielny’s Carmarthenshire family farm.

Dr Nakielny, of KN Consulting, farms 800 ewes at her home at Talley, near Llandeilo. She previously worked for a commercial sheep breeding company and various industry consultants following her studies at Aberystwyth University where she completed an Animal Science BSc and PhD on Breeding Sheep for Resistance to Roundworms.

A Nuffield Scholar, she is chairman of the FUW’s animal health and welfare committee, the union’s Carmarthenshire county chairman, sits on the NSA Welsh committee and represents Wales on the NSA UK policy and technical committee.

She is also a Wales representative for the Moredun Research Institute, was a member of Farming Connect’s Agri Academy 2012 Rural Leadership Programme and received the National Sheep Association Cymru/Wales Award 2012.

She is a technical sheep specialist covering a variety of sheep production issues, has been involved in the sheep industry for over 15 years and has been working as an independent sheep consultant for the last five years.

Over this period she has been involved in a number of research and demonstration projects ranging from sheep breeding and genetic improvement to parasite control and winter forage costs.

In 2011 she was awarded a Nuffield scholarship and has since visited a number of countries including Ireland, New Zealand and Australia studying lamb production systems and new opportunities for improving flock profitability.

She studied the role of efficiency in reducing methane emissions from lamb production due to concerns that the climate change debate would lead to calls for a reduction in livestock numbers.

However, following a meeting with leading scientists and policy makers, it is clear that the need to produce more food to feed a growing population means that the focus will in the future lie with increasing efficiency of production and “sustainable intensification”.

Dr Nakielny has a particular interest in improving the efficiency of lamb production. She said:

“Whilst there is need to improve efficiency of production and much talk about sustainability, the future of lamb production lies in the ability of individual producers to create profitable businesses. Without this there is no sustainability.

“Policy makers and scientists have a role to play in supporting research and creating a framework in which producers can operate effectively but ultimately profitability results from taking control of an individual business and making the most of market opportunities and meeting the needs of consumers.

“Lamb is already a high value product on the shelves so we can’t expect to see rapid increases in what we receive for lamb so we need to think about the things we can control. There is no magic bullet and I believe that profitability will come from tackling a range of issues which currently reduce profitability.

“Risk management will also become increasingly important as well as being able to react to changing conditions based on a clear understanding of what drives the business.”

Dr Nakielny is therefore working with a number of producers to develop monitoring and benchmarking systems as well as working with Farming Connect to develop the Know Your Flock+ benchmarking groups.

Looking to promote innovation in the sector, Dr Nakielny has also developed The Ram Shop, a unique marketing tool for ram breeders as well as working on a number of tools to help with the monitoring and benchmarking of sheep flocks.

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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