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Farming

Farmers urged to take up free sheep scab testing service

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NFU Cymru is encouraging Welsh sheep farmers to make use of a new free sheep scab testing service, while also urging that funding for a full eradication programme is brought forward as soon as possible.

The news comes after Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths MS, confirmed at last week’s NFU Cymru Conference that funds previously earmarked for a sheep scab eradication programme had been reprioritised as part of efforts to tackle Covid-19. The Minister did, however, acknowledge that sheep scab remains a serious threat to the industry and pledged that securing funding for this project remained a priority.

NFU Cymru is endorsing the Minister’s call for Welsh farmers to take advantage of the free examination of skin scrape samples from sheep showing suspected clinical signs of sheep scab. The scheme is operated by the APHA and funded by the Welsh Government, running until 31st March 2021. The initiative will aid accurate diagnosis, which is a prerequisite for appropriate treatment and successful control of sheep scab; a priority of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework. The scheme will also encourage sheep farmers to work with their veterinary surgeon to protect their flocks from sheep scab.

The free sheep scab testing service will see testing undertaken at APHA Carmarthen VIC, which is also the centre of expertise for disease surveillance of extensively managed livestock. Samples will be received in the usual way, via the farmer’s veterinary surgeon, and should be posted directly to Carmarthen VIC.  Sample submissions must be accompanied by full clinical history to qualify for free testing.

Samples can be submitted on a general submission form found on the Vet Gateway or through ADTS https://www.gov.uk/animal-disease-testing.

NFU Cymru Livestock Chairman Wyn Evans said: “Sheep scab is an absolutely dreadful disease with serious welfare and production implications if it is not accurately diagnosed and treated promptly and effectively. It is a disease that we really need to get on top in this country and I would encourage farmers across Wales to contact their vets and make use of this testing opportunity.

“Stakeholders from the sheep sector in Wales have developed and put forward to Welsh Government an eradication plan for sheep scab and we were pleased that in January 2019 the Minister committed £5 million of Wales RDP funding for sheep scab eradication. I am extremely disappointed that this funding has still not been allocated to the industry, but in response to a question I asked on this matter at the NFU Cymru Conference yesterday, I feel somewhat reassured that the Minister recognises the importance of this money being made available to support the industry initiative.

“I was heartened that whilst the Minister said that she has had to delay the £5 million funding because of reprioritisation of the budget due to Covid-19, she gave an assurance that the scheme is at the top of her priorities when looking at future budget allocations.”

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Farming

Wales’ new Chief Veterinary Officer starts in the role

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TODAY (Mar 13), Dr Richard Irvine begins his new role as Wales’ Chief Veterinary Officer.

Dr Irvine joins the Welsh Government having been UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and policy Deputy Director for Global Animal Health in the UK Government.

A highly experienced veterinarian, Richard has been working in the profession for more than 25 years and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise, with a background in animal health and welfare, trade policy, as well as science and state veterinary medicine.

Richard has previously spent time in a clinical mixed veterinary practice in South Wales.

He has also held different roles leading animal health surveillance and science programmes at the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Dr Irvine said: “Farmers and veterinarians throughout Wales do a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to meeting and supporting them as Wales’ Chief Veterinary Officer.

“We are all committed to protecting the health and welfare of animals and by working together we can meet the challenges we face and accomplish our collective goals.

“Much has been achieved in Wales and my work, alongside the team in Welsh Government, is to build on that.

“I’m looking forward to getting to work and making a real difference here in Wales.”

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “I’m very pleased to welcome Richard as our new Chief Veterinary Officer.

“Richard’s leadership and expertise will be crucial in delivering our ambitious Animal Health and Welfare goals and Programme for Government commitments.

“His knowledge and experience will be a great asset and I look forward to working with him.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire dairy farmer Roger Lewis scoops NFU prestigious Cymru award

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A WELSH dairy farmer has been honoured at the annual NFU Conference for his dedication and commitment to NFU Cymru and farming in Wales.

Roger Lewis, who farms at Cosheston, Pembrokeshire, was announced as the Welsh winner of the Meurig Raymond Award at NFU Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday 21st February. The award is named after former NFU President Meurig Raymond, whose family also farms in Pembrokeshire.

A passionate and energetic ambassador for the industry, Roger was instrumental in the creation of NFU Cymru’s TB Focus Group, which he now leads as chairman. The group has engaged with various key stakeholders across government and the farming industry, discussing improvements that could be made to the delivery of bovine TB policy in Wales. The group has produced a report which has been presented to Welsh Government with several recommendations on issues such as TB testing, communication, biosecurity and alternative routes for farms under TB restriction to finish or sell their cattle.

Roger was also part of Welsh Government’s TB Task and Finish Group which considers how Welsh Government can improve engagement and communication on bovine TB.

Roger has also given evidence on behalf of NFU Cymru to the inquiry on bovine TB carried out by the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs (ETRA) Committee in the Senedd, in which he eloquently outlined the concerns of the industry with several proposals put forward by Welsh Government to refresh the Bovine TB Eradication Programme, most notably in relation to possible changes to the compensation regime. Roger sits on the bTB subgroup of the GB Calf Strategy and is also at the forefront of a pilot TB project being developed by a group of farmers and vets in Pembrokeshire.

A former NFU Cymru Pembrokeshire County Chairman, Roger has used opportunities such as media interviews, political meetings at the Pembrokeshire County Show and NFU Cymru meetings to powerfully and effectively lobby on several other important issues for farmers in Pembrokeshire and the rest of Wales. He has represented the industry’s concerns over the impact of new water quality regulations on Welsh farming, as well as championing the importance of Welsh Government’s Agriculture (Wales) Bill placing an emphasis on food security.

Speaking after his award win, Roger Lewis said: “I am very humbled to have been honoured with this award. NFU Cymru has a tremendous wealth of dedicated members and staff working together for a better future for Welsh farmers and I am proud to play a small part in the union’s wider lobbying work.”

NFU Cymru Head of Operations Kevin Owen said: “Roger is an example of someone who really does go the extra mile for NFU Cymru and Welsh farming.

“In particular, Roger has been a fantastic driving force in taking forward NFU Cymru’s lobbying work on bovine TB – an area of high importance to our members with the disease still impacting all too many farming businesses. The degree of knowledge and professionalism that Roger brings to his chairing of the NFU Cymru TB Focus Group is second to none and his determination is helping to lobby for real change to the bovine TB picture in Wales.”

Once you have submitted your query our NFU Cymru will contact you and, if appropriate, your question will be passed on to one of our policy teams.

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Farming

Keeping dogs under control will protect lambs and other livestock

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DoOG owners are being reminded to keep their animals under control around sheep and other livestock.

With lambing season underway as well, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths and Rural & Wildlife Crime Coordinator Rob Taylor have said it’s important dogs should be kept on a lead or under close control at all times and owners should be confident dogs will return on command.

Research has found most incidents involving dogs worrying or attacking sheep happens on land which is not accessible to the public.

The Countryside Code, published by Natural Resources Wales, provides clear guidance on the responsibility of dog owners to keep their dogs under effective control.

Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “We have seen the very sad and distressing images where dogs have attacked livestock.

“We know most people are doing the right thing in keeping control of their dogs, but we also recognise some are not.

“The emotional and financial costs for those who own or find dead and injured livestock, is simply unacceptable, as are the implications to animal welfare.

“Responsible dog ownership is key and by taking the required steps, lambs and other livestock will be safe.”

The Welsh Government’s Wales Rural & Wildlife Crime Coordinator, Rob Taylor said: “Sheep worrying and brutal livestock attacks by pet dogs are sadly a regular occurrence across Wales, which is wholly preventable with responsible dog ownership.

“Owners need to be aware that it is a dog’s natural instinct to chase or even attack livestock and at this time of year it is more harrowing when ewes are pregnant or with already born lambs.

“We ask owners to be aware of the risks and use common sense, by walking dogs where livestock are not present.

“It’s vital they understand that an attack on livestock, although unintended, may result in their pet being shot, or euthanised on a court order after a conviction and nobody wants that to happen.”

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