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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

Welsh Dairy Show 2020 due to take place in Carmarthen has been cancelled

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The Welsh Dairy Show 2020 due to take place in Carmarthen has been cancelled.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (Sept 9), a spokesman said: “It is with deep regret that following an assessment of the current COVID19 restrictions that the organisers of the Welsh Dairy Show, on the United Counties Showground in Carmarthenshire, have made the difficult decision to cancel the Welsh Dairy Show 2020 which was due to take place on Tuesday, 27 October 2020.

“We hope to see you all again in October 2021.

“Could you please help us spread the word and let your followers / readers know the sad news.”

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Farming

Consumers appreciate locally-sourced food

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A SURVEY from Weetabix has found that almost a third of UK consumers admit the Covid-19 pandemic has made them realise how important locally sourced products are to the UK economy, with 48 per cent of Brits actively looking for locally sourced items in the supermarket.

A third of those polled say they have been more supportive of local British businesses both during and since lockdown, than ever before. More than a third do so to be more ethical in their shopping habits, whilst over two thirds hope to support local farmers and almost half do so for healthier and fresher produce.

The survey comes as Weetabix unveiled a stunning crop circle in the British countryside during this year’s harvest to raise awareness of the value of locally produced food to the UK economy.

Carefully produced over 36 hours, the crop circle highlights Weetabix’s commitment to working exclusively with local farmers. The company sources of the wheat in Weetabix Original biscuits from within 50-miles of their mills in rural Northamptonshire.

The crop circle was created on Antony Pearce’s wheat field at Moat Farm, Stoke Mandeville.

Antony Pearce commented: “As a British farmer it’s comforting to see some positives emerge from the first half of the year with people looking to support local businesses more and seeking to have a greater understanding of where their food comes from. We have grown the highest quality wheat to meet Weetabix’s high standards for 10 years and are proud to be one of the farms that fall within the 50-mile radius of their factory.”

A further 51 per cent believe that by ‘buying local’ they are helping the economy and 45 per cent hope to reduce their ‘food miles’ – the distance food has travelled before it arrives at our homes.

In fact, more than a third say they check the food miles of items when shopping by looking up the country of origin, believing the benefits of buying goods with fewer food miles to be include a lower carbon footprint (64 per cent), helping preserve UK farms (54 per cent) and less pollution (57 per cent).

When it comes to meals, breakfast is believed to be the dish with the least food miles behind it – possibly due to the likes of eggs, cereals and milk. A further 29 per cent also believe fewer food miles will mean they receive healthier food and 58 per cent think the goods will be fresher as they have travelled less.

Francesca Theokli, Marketing Director at Weetabix commented: “Our study showed that more than two thirds believe companies are not transparent enough about where their food is grown and produced. So we wanted to create this crop circle to highlight our ongoing commitment to locally sourcing the highest quality wheat from a 50 mile radius of our home and help consumers make an informed choice when selecting what to have for breakfast.
“There are many ways Brits can support local farmers and being careful about where breakfast is sourced is one simple step.”

The research also revealed:
• Items people are likely to buy which have been grown and produced in the UK were found to include butter (49 per cent), eggs (71 per cent) and strawberries (55 per cent).
• Whereas the likes of teabags (22 per cent), bananas (13 per cent) and chocolate (19 per cent) are believed to be difficult to purchase ‘locally’.
• A further 31 per cent feel there are limited options of local products in supermarkets and as a result, 45 per cent of Brits would like to see the big brands sourcing local ingredients to lead the way.

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Farming

Bath and West Dairy Show goes ahead

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DAIRY producers will at last be able to get out and about to meet colleagues, see new kit & hear from expert speakers, with the welcome news that the Royal Bath and West Dairy Show will go ahead on October 7 and it will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

So what has changed over the years, both within the industry and the event itself?

Allen Cotton OBE, current vice president of the Royal Bath & West Society, has not missed a single show in 39 years, having been an original committee member. “I remember sitting round a table and trying decide what time of year to have it – we decided on the first Thursday in October before the carparks got too wet.”

The event was even held during the foot-and-mouth outbreak, albeit in January without any cattle. And it’s a similar situation this year as there won’t be any cattle due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Without the cattle we have more space to spread the trade stands out so that could be an advantage.”

So what else has changed over the years? “The breeds have changed a lot – the numbers of Holstein Friesians have reduced and have been replaced by Jerseys and Guernseys,” says Mr Cotton. The Holstein Friesians are also bigger, and the udders on the animals have improved – which is reflected by the higher yields that farmers are achieving, he adds. “We used to produce around 6,000 litres a cow – a 9,000 litre cow was quite exceptional really; now some people’s herds average that.”

Technology has significantly changed over the years too. “When the show began many people were still milking into buckets – now we have robots milking cows.”

There is also more emphasis on the business aspects of dairy farming, so it’s unsurprising that the seminars remain a popular feature of the show. The hot topic 40 years ago was dairy herd management, with seminars on improving grassland productivity and breeding policies.

The latter certainly draws parallels to this year’s seminar theme: ‘Breeding the cow of the future’, with speakers examining how producers can use pedigree genetics or crossbreeding to produce the optimum cow for their system.
So what does the future hold? According to Mr Cotton’s son David – who is now chairman of the committee – the industry is always evolving, and the show with it. “The drive for me is presenting ideas for the future and getting the next generation involved. The show is also a great opportunity to socialise; catching up with people you may not have seen since last year.”

Although things will be a little more challenging this year to comply with the latest guidance and safety measures, the advantage of its location is that there is plenty of space and open air, says David. “The main thing is that people need to book online, for track and trace – our aim is to put on a good show where people can see the latest technologies, hear from expert speakers and network in a safe and open environment.”

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