Welsh Government rules out badger culling for tackling TB

During a recent debate in the Senedd, Conservative MS Janet Finch-Saunders called on the Welsh Government to introduce badger culling in Wales as another tool in the box for tackling TB.

According to the results from farmer-led badger culls in England, badger culling was shown to reduce TB in areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset by 66 percent and 37 percent respectively after four years.

In his response, FM Mark Drakeford ruled out any form of badger culling for eradicating TB under a labour-led Welsh Government and blamed cattle movements as the single greatest reason why bovine TB cases have increased in the low infection areas. The Government has introduced pre and post movement tuberculin skin tests and employed world-leading scientists including Prof Glyn Hewinson to carry out research into cattle vaccinations.

FUW welcomes greater powers to tackle livestock worrying

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed the section of the draft Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Act which will provide police forces in England and Wales with greater powers to tackle livestock worrying.

The FUW has lobbied for changes in legislation through its ‘Your Dog, Your Responsibility’ campaign in 2019 and ‘Livestock Worrying - Do you know your rights?’ webinar more recently where PC Dave Allen explained the work of the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC).

A report published by the NPCC group in 2018 identified that from September 2013 to 2017, there were a total of 1705 recorded cases of livestock worrying where 1928 animals were killed, and 1614 injured, at an estimated cost of £250,000 in the police force areas of North Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall, Sussex and North Wales. Sections 26 to 41 of the Act are based on the findings and recommendations of the NPCC group report.

For livestock keepers, more animals will be covered by the Act including Alpacas and game birds, the definition of Agricultural Land will include, for example, roads that livestock are moved along, and the list of relevant livestock will be able to be amended by the Secretary of State for England and the Rural Affairs Minister for Wales to reflect future farming needs without the need to change primary legislation.

Food exports to EU down £2bn in first quarter of 2021

British food exports to the EU fell by £2 billion in the first quarter of 2021 according to the latest HMRC figures, due to additional non-tariff barriers following the end of the Brexit transition period, coronavirus impacts and stockpiling.

The Food and Drink Federation has warned that the problem is inherent to the new trading barriers rather than being the symptom of teething problems, describing the £2 billion fall as “disastrous” for the industry.

Compared with 2020, dairy product exports fell by more than 90%, cheese exports fell by two-thirds, and lamb and mutton exports fell by 14%.

News in brief June 2021

Another UK beef processing site approved for exports to US

The Foyle Food Group based in Gloucester is the fourth UK beef processing site to be approved for commercial exports to the United States under the ‘USDA Approved’ list.

The UK was granted access to the US market in 2020 for the first time since the ban on UK and EU beef due to the BSE outbreak in 1996. The UK has exported more than £3 million worth of beef to the US since late last year as consumers seek for more premium products.

Restoring bog land by removing trees

The Marches Mosses Bog LIFE Project aims to restore lowland raised bog areas within the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses and Wem Moss National Nature Reserves near Whitchurch and Wrexham over the next five years.

Led by Natural England in partnership with Natural Resources Wales and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and with a multi-million pound grant from the EU LIFE scheme, the project aims to protect such habits through the removal of trees.

Each acre of bog at Fenn’s and Whixall Mosses contains 15 times the amount of carbon than the equivalent area of mature woodland.

UK secures new Japanese market for poultry meat

The UK has secured new market access in Japan for fresh and cooked poultry products, estimated to be worth £13 million to the industry every year.

The opening of this market demonstrates the UK’s world-leading production standards and is hoped to become a more significant export destination as poultry consumption in Japan increases.

Bovine TB Covid-19 exemptions to come to an end

It has been announced that a number of the exemptions which were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic will be coming to an end over the coming months.

From 1st July 2021, a pregnancy diagnosis certificate, issued within the previous 90 days, will need to be provided for any in calf animals at the time of the valuation.

Any TB skin tests which go overdue from 1 July 2021 will be referred by APHA to RPW and may lead to cross compliance penalties. Referrals will not take place if APHA have been notified in advance of extenuating circumstances that will prevent the test being completed on time.

From 1st August 2021, the exemption allowing calves under 180 days not to be tested during certain routine and targeted TB skin tests in officially TB free herds will be removed.

Further information can be found on the TB Hub website: https://tbhub.co.uk/statutory-tb-testing-of-cattle-in-gb-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/

RHWG survey results reveal priority livestock diseases

The Ruminant Health and Welfare Group (RHWG) has recently published the results of its UK wide survey of farmers, stock people and vets.

The survey, which ran between November and December 2020, received a total of 662 responses, 76% of whom were farmers and 34% professionals including vets.

The top 5 disease priorities in sheep were footrot and CODD, both of which scored high in all regions, scab due to production and welfare issues, liver fluke particularly in North and Less Favoured Areas, and fly strike due to animal welfare issues with farmers scoring it higher than vets as it can be treated on farm.

For cattle, digital dermatitis was scored high by farmers and vets, BVD was scored higher in England, johne’s disease had a high impact in all regions, liver fluke was a particular concern of beef farmers, and viral pneumonia.

The findings of this survey will now be used to prioritise the work of the RHWG across the devolved nations.

The full report can be found here: https://ruminanthw.org.uk/health_welfare_survey

Emergency authorisation for asulam to control bracken approved

The emergency authorisation to use asulam to control bracken was approved on 10th June by the relevant bodies for the 2021 season.

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinium) is a perennial plant that has an impressive invasive ability to spread through rhizomes under the ground, such that increases in land cover of around 3% per annum are not uncommon. Estimates of bracken ground cover vary between 900km2 (4.3%) and 1200km2 (5.3%) of Wales’ land mass.

Those planning to apply asulam products for bracken control this year must study the approval documents carefully.

Key points:

  • Aerial application is approved subject to a 90m wide no-spray buffer zone against surface water bodies.
  • Ground-based application is authorised but restricted to conservation areas only, and the use in these areas must be under the direction of the relevant conservation body. See the full details in the Authorisation document.
  • Livestock must be removed from areas to be treated and must not be allowed to return until at least 1 month after treatment.

Key dates:

#Farm24 returns to showcase British farming

The Farmers Guardian #Farm24 campaign, sponsored by Morrisons, has returned for 2021 to provide an opportunity for farmers and the public to celebrate British farming and highlight how farming serves the nation.

In 2020, #Farm24 reached more than 26 million people. This year, the aim is to reach even more people through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok from 5am on 5th August to 5am on 6th August.

To get involved with #Farm24, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Download and print your favourite pledge card

Pledge Card 1
Pledge Card 2
Pledge Card 3

Step 2: Take a photo, video, or even a TikTok with it - be as creative as you like! You could take your pledge with your favourite British food or your favourite farm animal!

Step 3: Share it on social media using #Farm24

Step 4: Tag Farmers Guardian - @FarmersGuardian and @Morrisons

Step 5: Nominate friends and family and get them involved too

Farming Connect air quality interactive tool gone live

Farming Connect has recently launched its new interactive air quality tool online here: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/improving-air-quality. The tool provides advice on the actions a typical Welsh farm can take to improve air quality and the subsequent benefits to the business.

The tool covers the following subtopics:

  • Air treatment and muck drying
  • Regulatr scraping
  • Switching from straight urea fertiliser
  • Extending the growing season
  • Precision slurry spreading
  • Wasing the collection yard
  • Efficient use of protein in the diet
  • Covering the slurry store

It also provides further information on how to access Farming Connect services relating to the topic and relevant Rural Development Programme grants.

Farming Connect Agri Academy applications now open

The Farming Connect Agri Academy 2021 is now open for applications and will close on 30th June.

The goal of the Agri Academy is to support and inspire the next generation of farming and forester entrepreneurs in Wales through its Business and Innovation and Junior programmes.

The Business and Innovation programme is for those passionate about farming, about Wales and about their future. The Junior programme is jointly collaborated with Wales YFC for those between 16 and 19 wanting to pursue a rewarding career in the food and farming industry.

For full details, calendar dates and application forms, please visit the Farming Connect website: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/business/skills-and-training/agri-academy

Surveys and questionnaires June 2021

Survey on methane-inhibiting feedstuffs for ruminants

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is conducting research on behalf of Defra in regard to methane-inhibiting feedstuffs for ruminants.

SRUC are doing research interviews to hear what farmers think about using such feedstuffs in practice. These feedstuffs are being considered as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the livestock sector and to help achieve the UK net-zero targets by 2050.

Participation is open to all farmers of ruminants including sheep, beef, dairy and goats. To register your interest to participate in an interview and to this research, please visit: http://bit.ly/methanefeedstuffs

Complete this survey on the use of soil for sustainable agriculture

Ms Mary Eliza, a PhD student at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences of Sheffield University is conducting a survey as part of her project entitled ‘Utilising the soil microbiome for sustainable agriculture in the UK.’

The purpose of the study is to develop an understanding of the perception and experiences about the soil microbiome, rhizobial inoculants and related practices of people involved in growing food in the UK.

Those involved in farming and related activities are asked to complete the short survey here.

One lucky participant will also win a £150 voucher after the survey closes in October.

Further information about the project can be found here.

Contribute to research on the acute decline in oak trees

Forest managers and others are invited to share their knowledge and expertise to contribute to research aiming to discover how declining health is affecting trees across the UK and to find possible new treatments.

The survey, being led by the Sylva Foundation and Bangor University as part of the Future Oak research project, is investigating Acute Oak Decline (AOD) in the UK due to increased pressure from pests, pathogens and changes to the landscape and climate.

Understanding the perspectives of forest managers and farmers will be critical to future solutions to such tree health problems.

The survey can be accessed here and closes on 11th July 2021.