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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

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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