ASSEMBLY MINISTER SEES EID PROBLEMS FIRST HAND

ASSEMBLY Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones will be given a demonstration of the controversial sheep and goats’ electronic identification (EID) technology on Friday, February 13 on a farm at Saron, Llanwnda, near Caernarfon.

Farmers’ Union of Wales member Huw Jones' farm, Pengwern, is one of 14 farms taking part in a joint Hybu Cig Cymru-Welsh Assembly Government pilot trial into the feasibility of introducing EID to the Welsh sheep industry.

"I have been trialing the EID technology for the past 12 months and I am convinced the system is totally unworkable after 20 per cent of my flock lost their tags," said Huw Jones.

"I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the technology to work for me on my farm and I found that although the electronic hand-held reader reads the tags relatively well, using this type of equipment is a lengthy process and is unpractical to say the least.

"The electronic race-reader is much better in theory but in practice I found it very unreliable. I recently brought 150 ewes down from the mountain and put them through the race and the reader only recorded 108 ewes.

"Such unreliability is just not good enough. I have no doubt that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock."

Alun Ffred Jones, Arfon’s Plaid Cymru AM, said: "I’m aware of the concerns regarding the EID tagging scheme and that many see it as unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy. I look forward to discussing the matter and listening to suggestions from people within the industry who will have to deal with the repercussions of the scheme’s implementation."

The visit, arranged by FUW’s Caernarfon county executive officer Gwynedd Watkin, will give the Minister the opportunity to see the technology at work at first hand.

Mr Watkin said: "The policy of EID for sheep has not been thought through properly and could ruin the financial viability of the industry.

"The technology used for EID is temperamental to say the least, even the slightest hitch with the technology could bring a livestock market or abattoir to a standstill, with major financial consequences for all concerned.

"I have invited John Lloyd Williams of Bryncir Agricultural Auction Centre and Gren Jones of Conwy Valley Meats to be present at the meeting so that the Minister can hear the concerns from all aspects of the industry."

FUW HIGHLIGHTS EID CONCERNS TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION

The Welsh farming industry’s objections to the compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep were today made clear to the European Commission by Farmers’ Union of Wales hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan.

Mr Morgan’s comments were made during a meeting with EC officials in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, organised by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Speaking after the meeting, the Llangurig sheep farmer said: "Unlike most farmers I have first hand experience of EID, having used it on a small proportion of my Welsh Mountain sheep for the past six years.

"In my six years experience, I have found that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock and, even when dealing with a small number of sheep that are electronically identified, we are forced to manually record information on paper due to reliability issues with the technology.

"It’s all very well using it to record and monitor a small specialist flock, but scaling its use up for every sheep in the country is madness."

Mr Morgan also emphasised the particular problems that the Regulation would bring for Welsh businesses, highlighting the fact that 80% of Wales comprises Less Favoured land, and that Welsh farms are therefore dependent upon moving animals from the mountains into the lowlands for wintering.

"This means that Wales, out of necessity, has a particularly high number of movements which, in turn, means that we will have to invest more heavily in the technology than in other countries."

Throughout today the Commission heard a range of concerns regarding the impact of the technology on the entire sheep industry during meetings with farmers, abattoirs and livestock auctioneers.

"There are serious concerns regarding the impact that compulsory EID will have for the entire supply chain," added Mr Morgan. "Even the slightest hitch with the technology could bring a livestock market or abattoir to a standstill, with major financial consequences for all concerned.

"As upland farmers, we are particularly reliant on the market system in terms of selling animals to finishers from the lowlands and I am extremely concerned that the cost of implementing the Regulation in markets is likely to be passed on to farmers or result in market closures.

"Market closures would increase the control that the supermarkets have over the supply chain, and that would be extremely bad news for the industry."

FUW URGES FARMERS AND AUCTIONEERS TO STAND FIRM ON BSE TEST COSTS

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today commended the decision by Pembrokeshire auctioneers J J Morris to cancel a Red Market sale at Whitland.

Mr Vaughan also called on farmers and auctioneers to stand firm against aggressive moves by processors and supermarkets to pass their overheads on to farmers via the auction markets.

The Whitland sale was due to have been held today, and would have involved the sale of some 120 cattle from farms under TB restrictions.

"The cancellation of Wednesday's Red Market at Whitland comes as a huge blow to Welsh farms that are under TB restrictions and had animals booked in to the sale" said Mr Vaughan.

"These businesses need to move animals off their holdings as soon as possible in order to alleviate the huge pressures that accompany TB movement restrictions, and the decision will add significantly to the problems in the area, and could even affect the Welsh Assembly's TB control programme," said Mr Vaughan.

"However, the industry should not give in to this kind of intimidation by supermarkets and abattoirs, and I commend the stance taken by the livestock auctions.

"Moves by abattoirs and supermarkets to levy farmers, whether via the livestock markets or otherwise, should be resisted. If we bow to this it could be the thin edge of the wedge.

"At what point will the auctioneers then be asked to deduct fixed charges to cover water and electricity bills, or other abattoir or supermarket overheads?

"The bottom line is that this is a public health issue, and should either be picked up by government or passed down the chain to supermarkets and other customers."

Mr Vaughan added that he was deeply suspicious about the apparently coordinated way in which the livestock auctioneers had been asked to levy farmers.

"The way in which some appear to have stood together on this issue smacks of collusion. Companies that work together in order to manipulate the market place risk falling foul of the law, and we shall pass on any evidence of such practices to the Office of Fair Trading."

"It is disgraceful that the supermarkets and abattoirs may make the TB situation worse due to tactics that are effectively designed to drive farmgate prices down."

FUW ANGLESEY AWARDS PRESENTED TO LOCAL FARMERS

WELSH Black Cattle Society president Richard Hughes has won the FUW Anglesey branch's "Gwobr Garreg Fawr" for his contribution to agriculture and Brian and Ffiona Thomas from Beef Direct have won the "Dyfeisgarwch award" for ingenuity or initiative.

Mr Hughes of Glan Rafon, Bodorgan, has never travelled more in Wales than during his first half year in office. His Rafon herd of pedigree Welsh Blackcattle was established in 1967.

He has met society members at six of the leading summer shows - Aberystwyth, Anglesey, Flint & Denbigh, Pembrokeshire, Llanrwst and the Royal Welsh Show.

Farm visits to members, organised by the North Wales Breeders Club, included a modern dairy complex with the Plumbley family at Calveley green Farm, Cheshire, and to Peter and Yvonne Brown's Chastleton Hill Farm, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucester.

Both farm visits were to progressive Welsh Black breeders and were well received by hosts and visitors who believe in good public relations and communication between society officials and members.

The president also joined the South Wales Breeders Club at their annual farm visit hosted by the Williams family at Tyddyn Bach, Llanfachreth in Merionethshire.

Mr Williams, whose Machreth Herd was established in 1956, has in recent years seen many cattle registered from the home-bred bull, Machreth Cai 7th.

During the autumn Mr Hughes joined 100 members at the South Wales Breeders Club dinner at the Plough Inn, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Within a week both Mr and Mrs Hughes had met the patron, the Prince of Wales, and presented him with a china Welsh Black Bull to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Mr Hughes, who now has nine breeding cows, is a regular exhibitor at Anglesey Show and won breed champion on many occasions. He also purchases store cattle at Dolgellau to fatten in the spring and sell in the autumn direct to the abattoir.

During the Winter Fatstock Fairs Mr Hughes was delighted to witness the success of one of his own home bred steers Rafon Keith 3rd winning awards the length and breadth of the country.

Rafon Keith 3rd, exhibited by Robin Roberts, Anglesey, won the champion native steer at the Royal Highland Show and was in the best group of three pure beef breed animals at the Royal Smithfield Show held in the Bath & West Showground, Somerset.

Mr Hughes is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Glan Rafon and the third generation to be members of the Welsh Black Cattle Society.

The idea for Beef Direct was born in 1998 as Brian and Ffiona Thomas were fed up with having no control over their prices which at that time were below the cost of production for beef and lamb.

They felt that the supermarkets were paying farmers as little as possible and charging the housewife as much as possible. Logically, therefore, there was a reasonable margin to be had from direct selling.

In August 2000, after doing their research, Beef Direct was launched at the Anglesey Show. The idea was that as farmers' markets were just starting up in England they would go there to sell their Welsh Black Beef and lamb.

Initially, they worked with their local butcher and his son. Foot and Mouth shut the business down for four months in 2001. After this it was decided to upgrade the old stables which was adapted to a licensed working butchery and employ a full time butcher.

Both Brian and Ffiona attended a number of food-related courses to gain the necessary qualifications. Their aim from the start has been to produce the best quality meat possible from their herd of pure Welsh Black Cattle and lamb relying largely on the clover rich Anglesey pastures to enhance the flavour.

The business has expanded every year and at present three full-time employees work in the butchery. Demand for Welsh Black Beef is on the increase and with the advent of DNA testing it is envisaged that there will be a greatly increased demand for their pure Welsh Black Beef from the catering industry as well as the public.

They are looking to expand their premises in the near future and hopefully create more employment. The first recognition of Beef Direct's excellence was when they were invited to become one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes in the early stages of their meat business.

Other accolades have since followed- Great Taste Awards three gold stars for their Welsh Lamb 2008, Great Taste Awards one gold star for their beef 2008, Great Taste Awards reserve best speciality food from Wales 2008.

They have also won prizes at the Oyster Festival for their sausages. At New Ferry Farmers' Market, which won Radio 4 UK's Best Farmers' Market 2007, Beef Direct have won several awards including the overall best producer and runner-up in the Customer Service Award which recognised their excellent produce by customers who buy their meat on a monthly basis.

On being told that they were to receive the FUW Award for Ingenuity they commented: "The award given by the Anglesey branch of the FUW to us is very important and greatly appreciated as it is the first award we have received from fellow farmers. We are absolutely delighted to be receiving this award."

The awards were presented at the branch's annual dinner on January 30.

FUW URGES TESCO TO HELP FUND WELSH DAIRY CENTRE TOO

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ dairy committee chairman today welcomed the launch of Tesco’s national dairy centre in the Wirral and called on the supermarket to consider assisting a similar centre already set up in Wales.

"The Tesco Dairy Centre of Excellence at Liverpool University’s Wood Park farm is a welcome development as it will bring together experts from across the dairy sector to look at issues from animal welfare to consumer trends," said Eifion Huws.

"But I would also urge Tesco to think about making a financial investment in Wales’ Dairy Development Centre at the Gelli Aur Farm and Technology Centre near Llandeilo which has been going since January 2002.

"It aims to facilitate the development of the Welsh dairy industry through a proactive technology transfer service; market information; demonstrating best practice methods of production; and research and development."The centre has a network of demonstration and development farms to help get best practice methods and new technologies to farmers throughout Wales," Mr Huws, an Anglesey dairy farmer, added.

"Its two development farms aim to demonstrate research work on a commercial scale, illustrate sustainable husbandry, compare various dairy systems and publish physical and financial results.

"The demonstration farms are commercial working farms demonstrating better practice methods of varying dairy production systems whilst maintaining a viable farming business. The centre is financed by the Assembly’s Farming Connect scheme and DairyCo."

Tesco say their project builds on many unique initiatives such as Local Choice milk and the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group which illustrate its commitment to the dairy industry.

The new centre will bring Tesco, farmers and dairy experts together to work on issues facing the industry and help to build a more sustainable dairy industry in the UK.

Some of the key areas it will look at are:

  • Ways in which to help farmers to deliver commercial benefits on farm
  • Exploring consumer trends and product innovation
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental best practices
  • Milk quality

FUW SEEKS MEMBERS’ VIEWS ON NEW TB COMPENSATION SCHEME

The Farmers’ Union of Wales will gather the views of its 12 county branches to develop a formal response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s (WAG) proposals to overhaul its bovine TB compensation scheme.

"Meanwhile, I would encourage all Welsh farmers to read WAG’s consultation paper and respond to it before the closing date of April 10," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

WAG proposes to link bovine TB compensation payments to good farming practices and disease control measures and the consultation document is available at www.wales.gov.uk/consultations/currentconsultations or by request via e-mail from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A key aim of its £27m programme of bovine TB eradication is to amend the current system to "ensure a fair deal for herd owners and taxpayers by linking compensation arrangements with the encouragement of farmers to comply with best practice requirements".

Bovine TB in Wales has increased substantially in the current financial year and since last April over £17,734,564 compensation was paid in Wales, compared with £11,185,340 in the same period the previous year - an increase of 59 per cent.

WAG’s consultation paper considers the responsibilities of herd owners and the principles of compensation and, in particular, how these principles can encourage positive on-farm actions and help modify behaviour to prevent the reintroduction of the disease into herds in Wales.

Mr Vaughan said: "No-one would disagree that genuine irresponsible behaviour should be penalised but the approach must be proportional, particularly given past government failures to address the issue of bTB in wildlife which has created the massive problems we are now facing.

"It would be completely unacceptable for a farmer to be penalised if his animals are infected by wild animals over which farmers have no control whatsoever - especially given that it has effectively been illegal to control the disease in wildlife for decades."

FUW REACTS ANGRILY TO MORE FARMGATE MILK PRICE CUTS

The Farmers’ Union of Wales today reacted angrily following the latest round of farmgate milk price cuts.

Their response follows Arla Foods decision to cut its milk price to farmers by 2p per litre (ppl) and First Milk by 1.25ppl.

FUW milk and dairy produce committee chairman Eifion Huws said: "This time of the year almost always brings bad news for dairy farmers with farmgate milk price reductions and increased input costs, energy prices and regulation leading to falling confidence.

"All dairy farmers have serious concerns about their future as they face difficult times in the months ahead. They are already experiencing very tough conditions, with historically high prices still for many inputs and pressure on returns.

"This latest round of milk price cuts began in November when Dairy Farmers of Britain announced a 2p per litre reduction. At the time the FUW called for increased support for the dairy industry but obviously that is not happening.

"For some dairy farmers these big reductions in milk price could be the last straw. It is vitally important that processors and supermarkets stand by the industry at this difficult time and do not let these difficulties trigger a downward spiral.

"I firmly believe the Government should take urgent action to prevent this happening in order to secure jobs in the farming and processing industries."

COVID-19 - Important Information for our members and customers

 

In view of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve taken the decision to help protect members, customers and colleagues by closing all FUW offices.

All staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, meaning our team will be continuing with exactly the same service but over the phone/email/skype or other means of remote communication instead. 

Members and customers should continue to contact us as they would, as all our team can be contacted via the usual phone numbers. 

We will be making sure that our service levels are maintained. SAF/IACS appointments will carry on as normal but will be conducted over the phone. 

Contact details for your local office can be found here: https://www.fuw.org.uk/en/contact-us 

 

Important links relating to the Coronavirus:


The TB Hub have prepared a list of FAQs regarding how TB procedures will be affected by the virus: https://tbhub.co.uk/statutory-tb-testing-of-cattle-in-gb-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Red Tractor Updated Covid-19 position here: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/contentfiles/Farmers-7085.pdf?_=637206600290507095

Livestock Auctioneers Association LAA - 25/03/2020: https://www.laa.co.uk/news/3989/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-to-members-and-farmers/

Business Wales (including details of coronavirus support for businesses): https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) available through participating lenders: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) guidance on Coronavirus: https://www.naac.co.uk/coronavirus-guidance-issued-to-contractors/

National Milk Recording services 24/03/2020: https://www.nmr.co.uk/about-us/coronavirus

Senedd Research Blog: https://seneddresearch.blog/2020/03/17/coronavirus-constituency-support/