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Farming

Red meat trade steady despite disruptions

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NEW HMRC figures have shown how the international red meat trade is making slow but steady progress since the Brexit and Covid impacts of the extraordinary January of 2021, which saw disruption and delays at channel ports.

But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine evolves and input costs for farmers and processors increase, the recovery process could be hindered again over the coming weeks. 

Data for January 2022 shows that beef exports and imports increased by 57% and 45% respectively on the artificially subdued figures of the same month last year, while trade in sheep meat trade saw a rise of 13% in both.

More pig meat has been shipped in and out of the UK too, with a 64% rise in exports and a 88% hike in imports.

Glesni Phillips, Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has analysed this information in the levy board’s latest Market Bulletin. She said: “The demand for red meat on the UK market has remained firm following changes in consumption habits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Current export volumes remain significantly lower than pre-Brexit levels and the five-year average for January, for the sheep sector in particular, although the overall value of exports has held up well. The market is beginning to follow seasonal trends again, however, it is unclear when we will return to the normality of 2019.”

Despite not having a direct impact on market prices for livestock at present, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is already affecting trading patterns and product movement worldwide. Both nations are significant grain producers, and the two are major exporters of raw materials for the agricultural sector, including fuel and fertiliser.

Glesni added: “For some months, it’s been clear that strong lamb and beef prices – driven by high retail sales and tight supply – have been partially offset for many farmers by high input costs. Welsh livestock farms operate comparatively low-input systems in terms of feed and are aiming to be ever more so with sustainability in mind. But rising feed costs, alongside price rises in fertiliser, fuel and energy, are certain to have consequences for many businesses in all parts of the food supply chain.

“As inflation continues to rise, it is also difficult to forecast demand trends for red meat as consumers feel the squeeze on their household expenditure.”

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Farming

Update on Avian Flu issued by Pembrokeshire County Council

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The Welsh Government has put in place requirements for biosecurity measures to attempt to control the spread of avian influenza.
It is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures
Following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (AI) in wild birds and on commercial premises, an All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been declared.
England and Scotland have also declared equivalent national Avian Influenza Prevention Zones to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.
This means that it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian flu.
All keepers of poultry and other captive birds, irrespective of how those birds are kept, are to take appropriate and practicable steps, including:
• Reducing access of poultry and other captive birds to areas frequently visited and contaminated by wild waterfowl;
• Ensuring the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
• Taking steps to feed and water birds in enclosed areas and ensure feed, water and bedding are not exposed to virus contamination, particularly through bird droppings, and stored in a means not accessible to wild birds;
• Minimising movement of people in and out of bird enclosures;
• Cleaning and disinfecting footwear with foot dips, and ensure there are precautions to avoid the direct or indirect transfer of virus contamination into and between premises, from anything liable to spread infection such as clothing;
• Keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy;
• Reducing any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.

In a joint statement the Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales said:
“Bird keepers have faced the largest ever outbreak of avian flu this year and with winter brings an even more increased risk to flocks as migratory birds return to the United Kingdom. Scrupulous biosecurity and hygiene measures is the best form of defence, which is why we have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain, meaning that all bird keepers must take action to help prevent the disease spreading to more poultry and other domestic birds. The introduction of an AIPZ means regardless of whether you keep a few birds or thousands, you are legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleansed and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.
Smallholdings and backyard flocks with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.
Owners are encouraged to register your poultry with the Local Authority even if only kept as pets, to ensure owners are kept up to date during an outbreak
At this point the AIPZ now in force across Great Britain, does not include a requirement to house birds.
The AIPZ will be in place until further notice and under regular review as part of the government’s work to monitor and manage the risks of bird flu.
Stricter Avian Influenza restrictions continue to apply in the Protection and Surveillance zones that were declared on the 9th September in the Milford Haven area. Road signage marks the boundaries of these relevant zones.
If you require any further advice or guidance as a poultry keeper, please contact PCC Animal Health and Welfare team via email at awelfare@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or on 01437 764551.

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Business

“There aren’t enough hours in the day” for entrepreneurial young Pembrokeshire dairy farmer Scott Robinson

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“I WOULD not be where I am today if it were not for Farming Connect,” says Pembrokeshire dairy farmer Scott Robinson.

Scott, 25, is ambitious, focused and also very busy! He works alongside his parents at the family farm near Clynderwen and runs his own successful milk-vending machine enterprise.

He says he hasn’t yet found the route to achieving the perfect work/life balance – ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’ – but, like everything else he tackles, he’s working on it! 

After attending Hartpury College to study an extended diploma in agriculture, Scott travelled around New Zealand to get experience of working on large-scale dairy units.

“It was an eye-opener – if their workers hadn’t finished their day by 5pm, they felt they were getting something wrong, we could learn from that here in Wales too!”

Scott grew up on the council-owned Pembrokeshire farm which has been tenanted by his parents for almost 30 years. They currently milk 140 Holstein Friesian cows twice daily and graze them on 200 acres of pasture and silage.  

The family first accessed Farming Connect’s Advisory Service in 2019.  Soil sampling and nutrient management planning advice led to more targeted use of nitrogen fertilisers on fields with high indices with slurry elsewhere.

“This has saved us time and money so we’ll now reassess this every three to four years,” says Scott.

Through the Advisory Service, they also applied for an infrastructure report and will shortly start work on a new slurry lagoon which will ensure the farm meets the new agri-pollution requirements. This will allow for more efficient use of farm nutrients and enable the family to transition to a flying herd, buying in all replacement heifers. The farm infrastructure report was submitted as part of the planning application providing the information required for Natural Resources Wales to approve the proposal.

Two years ago, urged on by his Farming Connect mentor Lilwen Joynson, Scott started researching the costs and viability of setting up a new milk vending machine business at the farm. He successfully applied for a substantial loan which enabled him to convert one of the farm outbuildings and invest in the necessary equipment.  He also set up a formal agreement with his parents to purchase some of their milk, the remainder of which is sold on contract to a major dairy wholesale company.

Scott says that tapping into a range of Farming Connect support services has not only given him new skills, but also increased his network of similarly pro-active farmers all keen to share their experiences of innovative or more efficient ways of working.

Scott and his parents have at various times been members of a local Farming Connect dairy discussion group- which meets quarterly to discuss issues such as benchmarking, nutrient management planning and grazing strategies as well as animal health and performance.

A former participant of the Agri Academy, which he says was a massive boost to his self-confidence, Scott has also been part of Farming Connect’s Prosper to Pasture basic programme to have a better understanding of pasture management. The family have also accessed sector-specific guidance on topics including planning, nutrient management, slurry storage, grassland and crop management. Scott also joined a local Agrisgôp set up especially for dairy farmers involved with milk-vending enterprises, which included those just thinking of starting up as well as fully-fledged operators.

“It was hugely helpful to share guidance on good suppliers, compare costs and swap contacts – I found sharing our experiences a big support.”

The group was led by Lilwen Joynson, who had met Scott at the beginning of his entrepreneurial ‘journey’ in her role as his mentor.  

Scott says Lilwen’s support was the catalyst which encouraged the whole family to talk openly ‘around the kitchen table’ about their hopes for the future.

“By facilitating our discussions, we soon had a clear sense of direction and her insistence that we each drew up a detailed action plan and deadlines after every meeting had a huge impact on both short and long-term ambitions for the future direction of the farm.  

“Farming Connect has helped me learn more about innovation, current best practice and more efficient ways of working, all critical for farmers at a time we need to be more aware of climate change and protecting the environment.

“Lilwen encouraged us all to think of the wider implications and convinced me and my parents that we should investigate and capitalise on every opportunity to future proof both the farm and the milk vending business. 

“I’ve got an expanding customer-base and I’m optimistic that within three years, when I hope to have paid off my loan, all profits from the milk vending side will be going straight into my pocket – that’s a nice thought to keep me working hard!”

Scott has also undertaken Farming Connect training courses including social media training and a marketing course which help him promote the milk vending enterprise.

“It makes good commercial sense to take advantage of all the support and guidance available, and with Farming Connect services either fully funded or subsidised by up to 80%, I’d advise anyone else to pick up the phone to their local development officer today.”

Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and financed by Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

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Business

Council officers conduct visits in response to Avian Influenza incident

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Following the identification of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza  in poultry at a site near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire and the declaration of an Influenza Protection Zone and wider Surveillance Zone surrounding the Infected Premises (by the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales), on Friday 9 September, officers from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Public Protection Division have been engaged in visiting addresses within the 3 kilometre Protection Zone around the site.

Officers are identifying locations where poultry and/or other captive birds are kept and to provide information on restrictions that currently apply to help prevent the spread of disease.

The Council’s officers are working in support of veterinary colleagues from the Animal and Plant Health Agency who are managing a co-ordinated response to the incident, in collaboration with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Agency and Public Health Wales.

A map showing the extent of the zones and restrictions that apply can be seen on the Welsh Government website at https://gov.wales/declaration-avian-influenza-protection-zone-surveillance-zone-near-milford-haven-pembrokeshire, and road signs are currently being erected by the local authority to help clarify where these zones begin and end, which will remain in place until the restrictions can be lifted.

It is vital keepers of birds remain vigilant and ensure they have the very highest levels of biosecurity in place.

Responsibilities of people who keep birds:

  • All keepers of kept birds should be vigilant for signs of the disease such as increased mortality, respiratory distress and drops in food or water intake, or egg production.
  • Consult your veterinary surgeon in the first instance if your birds are unwell.
  • If you or your vet suspect that avian influenza could be causing illness in your birds, you must, by law, report this to the Animal and Plant Health Agency Wales on 0300 303 8268. This will trigger a disease investigation by APHA vets.
  • You must apply strict biosecurity measures to prevent any materials, equipment, vehicles, clothing, feed or bedding that could have been contaminated from wild birds coming onto your premises. Further guidance is available here: biosecurity and preventing disease in captive birds.

The UK health agencies advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the UK food standards agencies advise that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.

Members of the public who do not keep birds can help by reporting dead wild birds.  You should call the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 if you find:

  • One or more dead bird of prey or owl
  • Three or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks)
  • Five or more dead birds of any species

These may be collected for examination and avian influenza surveillance, depending on the species and location. It is important not to pick up or touch any sick or dead bird.

Sick or injured wild birds should not be reported to Defra. Instead contact the RSPCA (in Wales and England) on 0300 1234 999 who may be able to offer assistance.

Dead or sick birds in public places, such as beaches, can also reported by calling 01437 764551 (or out of hours 0345 601 5522) for Pembrokeshire County Council to arrange to collect safely.

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