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Farming

Warning on liver fluke rise

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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:

REPORTS FROM AROUND THE UK

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.

Farming

Alpaca settle in on Welsh hills

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A HERD of alpaca at Aberystwyth University’s upland research centre welcomed two new arrivals during the Covid-19 lockdown.
One male and one female baby alpaca, known as cria, were born at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Platform and are settling down to life in the Cambrian Mountains.
They are the first cria to be born on the University’s land and to be registered under the centre’s new stud prefix ‘Peiran’.
Peiran Champagne and Peiran Cosmopolitan join a small herd of alpacas who arrived at Pwllpeiran in October 2019 as part of a new research project.
Scientists want to see whether the South American alpaca is suited to life in the Welsh hills and could provide new opportunities for uplands farming.
These long-necked animals, similar to the llama, are renowned for the quality of their fibre (wool) and are happy to feed on low quality grasses which are often snubbed by sheep.
The research project is being led by Dr Mariecia Fraser at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre, which is part of the University’s Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).
“These are changing times for Welsh upland farming, with the next round of support payments expected to push for a shift away from primary agricultural production towards nature conservation and carbon reduction. In setting up a research herd of alpacas at Pwllpeiran, we want to test whether the alpaca could offer hill farmers a viable alternative to sheep.
“As well as producing high quality fibre, camelids like alpacas have evolved adaptations to enable them to live off poor quality tussock grasses in the Andes, and are happy to tuck into invasive grasses such as Molinia. These forages grow in abundance on the Welsh uplands but tend to be shunned by native sheep. We’ll be looking at the impact of their grazing and how well they could fit in to traditional patterns of farming here,” said Dr Fraser.
The establishment of the initial research herd is being funded by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust, which was set up by the Aberystwyth alumna in 1988.

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Farming

Beef calf registrations increase

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NEW figures released by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that the number of beef calves registered in Wales in the first five months of 2020 is the highest it’s been for several years.
Across Britain there has been an overall rise of 1.2% in calves – both dairy and beef – registered between January and May 2020, compared to the same period last year. In Wales the figure is higher, with an increase of 3.1%.
According to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) the statistics reflect a range of factors, including a trend of producing more cross-bred calves from the dairy herd.
Some of the beef breeds and cross breeds showing the biggest increases in terms of calf registrations in Wales include the Aberdeen Angus (up 11.7%) and Hereford (up 4.8%), whilst both Charolais and British Blue registrations are up just over 4%.
The 2020 figures are a contrast to the last five years, where BCMS calf registration data has indicated a flat picture in the Welsh beef registrations.
HCC market analyst Glesni Phillips said, “These figures could show a positive sign for the future of the beef industry in Wales, and reflect broader trends in both the beef and dairy sectors.
“This comes despite the beef sector being hit by uncertainty in recent times. A combination of market conditions led to low farm-gate prices last year, and demand fluctuated widely in the early stages of the Coronavirus lockdown as pubs and restaurants closed their doors.
“However, we’ve seen encouraging consumption figures throughout Britain in the second half of the spring, with great support from consumers for home-produced beef, with its high standards of welfare and environmental sustainability.”
One high-profile new entrant into the beef sector is international rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE, who has recently started his own ‘Mairwen’ herd of Hereford cattle in Carmarthenshire.
“Having worked at Wern Farm Drefach when I was younger it had always been a dream of mine to keep my own herd,” said Nigel, who has built up to around 30 cattle so far on a 116-acre holding, “and if anything the lockdown has given the chance to get things up and running more quickly, as we’ve been able to get on with fencing, hedge-laying and developing our soil and pasture.”
Nigel added, “Each breed has its supporters, but from an early age I recall visiting my uncle and aunt’s farm, Pentwyn in Llannon, who had a Hereford bull running with the dairy herd. My cousin Helen and Gwyndaf near Aberaeron who run the Creuddyn Hereford herd have also been a valuable source of advice. For me, the cattle have a calm nature and calve easily. They’ll also produce good-quality meat which is important as we develop the business in future.”

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Farming

New edition of Welsh meat ‘Bible’ launched

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has launched the latest edition of its ‘Little Book of Meat Facts’, the annual digest of facts, figures and trends for the nation’s lamb, beef and pork industries.
Among the key figures in this year’s edition were that Welsh red meat production was worth an estimated £690 million in 2018, compared with £677 million the previous year.
In 2019, total throughput of cattle and calves in Welsh abattoirs stood at 147,600 head, with total beef production totalling 42,900 tonnes (up from 40,000 tonnes the previous year). Throughput of sheep and lambs stood at 3.3 million head, with total sheep meat production totalling 63,400 tonnes, compared with 60,800 in 2018.
France remained the largest destination for lamb exports, but with important growth in trade with Germany which is now in a clear second place. Beef and lamb exports were mostly to Europe, although with significant trade to other markets in the Middle East, East Asia and Canada.
The Little Book also contains information on what kinds of meat British consumers are buying and from which retailers, as well as data on key industry measures such as carcase classification.
HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said; “We usually launch the Little Book of Meat Facts at the Royal Welsh Show, so that farmers and other stakeholders can browse the latest statistics.
“Of course, this year that’s not possible, so we’re launching it virtually and making it available on our website.
“What all the statistics show is that, despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit and now of course the disruption of COVID-19, the red meat sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It’s the backbone of rural communities, and also employs large numbers in auction markets, processing and the supply chain, as well as supporting brands which are symbols of our nation’s high-quality food across the world.”

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