A PRIZE EVERY MONTH IN NEW NSA GIVEAWAY!NSA is very excited to announce a new membership recruitment prize giveaway for 2015, which gives members 12 chances to win. Every month in 2015 a Shearwell Data EID stick reader kit will be up for grabs. Each kit includes a stick reader, a mobile printer and accessories, all in a handy carry case, plus Shearwell’s StockMove Express management app. Existing NSA members can get an entry into the draw for each friend or neighbour they recommend to join the association. There is no limit to the number of entries existing members can get and the sooner you enter the draw the more chances you have of winning. Find out more and download a membership form to pass on here. All new members’ names will also go in the hat.
PLENTY ON AT WELSH WINTER FAIR: NSA enjoyed a busy two days at the Welsh Winter Fair this week, welcoming many members and contacts to the NSA stand near the sheep ring, and also signing up a good number of new members. A highlight of the event was the presentation of the John Gittens award for outstanding contribution to the Welsh sheep industry to Dai Morris of Carmarthenshire (more here). The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society also awarded a bursary for Sion Williams to attend the Oxford Farming Conference in January. Sion and his wife Clare are previous winners of the NSA Cymru/Wales award for young people in the sheep sector and host NSA Welsh Sheep in 2013. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, reports: “A hot topic at the Welsh Winter Fair was the situation with the proposed low payment above the 400 metre line, and NSA has followed it meeting with Deputy Farming Minister Rebecca Evans last week with a letter justifying why we think the Welsh Government should do all it can to resolve the situation quickly.”
CLARIFICATION ON RED TRACTOR: The Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) Beef and Lamb Board issued a statement this week following media criticisms over the direction of the scheme and the recently launched new standards – click here to read the statement. The NSA has had significant discussion and received much communication over this issue and as a result intends to increase its stakeholder involvement with the RTA structure. At present NSA has a seat on the RTA Beef and Lamb Board and also on the Technical Advisory Committee. We support the RTA scheme and the fact that it brings value to farmers but discussion and debate over the scheme is healthy and it is clear that while communication is always a challenge, more effective communication and involvement from members is very important. For sheep, many farmers have choices as to whether they join RTA or not with many sheep market outlets not requiring RTA. The NSA supports more sheep farmers joining RTA as it opens up market options, but considering the structure and nature of the sheep industry, the scheme has to continue to be proportionate to the risks, address the key issues that are linked to the RTA scheme and be an attractive platform for farmers. There are already other assurance schemes out there that cater for higher expectations and it is wrong if RTA is being encouraged by retailers to compete with these. Too big a step will result in the scheme appearing out of reach for those who are not involved. Red Tractor Assurance is an important agenda item for the NSA English Committee meeting on Thursday (11th December) so any members wanting to express an opinion are encouraged to talk to their regional representatives before then – click on the map on the left hand side of the page at www.nationalsheep.org.uk to see who to contact in your region.
LOOKING AHEAD TO CAP IN 2017: CAP was (unsurprisingly) the main topic of discussion at an NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee meeting on Wednesday, where steps were taken to begin capturing information about the current CAP and its implementation ready for the mid-term review of the policy in 2017. The committee feels very strongly that action is needed now to ensure NSA can represent members and have an influence in three years’ time.
STRONGER ROLE FOR GEORGE: After 16 years of sterling service to the NSA, George Milne has become an employee of the association. It may sound surprising, but George (NSA Scottish Region Development Officer) has been working for all that time on a freelance basis. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We really welcome George having made this move and are delighted that he is now to become an even more (if that is possible) established figure within NSA. Members in Scotland will continue to see and hear George working in the same way and I hope we can bolster and support his work with closer integration with other NSA staff and activities.”
IMPORTANT CAP REMINDER FOR SCOTTISH FARMERS: At the end of October all Scottish farmers should have received a letter from the Sottish Government detailing where their land falls within the new payment regions. It is vitally important that everyone makes sure their parcels of land are in the correct region, says NSA Scottish Region Development Officer George Milne: “This regional designation is likely to be of importance for at least the next five years of the new scheme, if not longer. Not only is it important for a farmer’s own business that their land is classified correctly, it is also important for every other farmer in Scotland, as it will allow payment rates to be set accordingly for the three separate regions.” In the last 10 days all Scottish farmers should also have received a letter setting out the number of entitlements each business holds. Again, it is crucial that this is read carefully and checked for accuracy. If you feel there are any inaccuracies in either letter, contact your local Scottish Government office before the Christmas break.
ANIMAL AID GAINING PUBLICITY: The anti-farming campaigning body Animal Aid has been busy this week on two different fronts. It has releasing a report on farm animals dying due to natural disasters, fires, transportation and disease (click here for ‘The Uncounted Dead: farming’s unofficial victims’) and has also signing up comedian Ricky Gervais to support its campaign for mandatory CCTV cameras in slaughterhouses. The action group has 51,000 signatures for its CCTV petition; 100,000 will ensure a debate in the House of Commons. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, comments on the Uncounted Dead report: “Sheep farming can be hugely affected by the weather, with last year’s snow showing how deaths and losses can occur unexpectedly. It is certainly not in the farmer’s interest to have high mortality levels, and while there is always more we can all do to avoid losses, the vast majority of sheep are cared for and managed well. It seems ironic that when most sheep farmers spend their days actively looking after their flocks, these campaigning organisations forget to mention the deaths and losses of other creatures – millions of bird and mammals that are killed by our national cat population, thousands of animals killed on the roads, hedgehogs and ground nesting birds killed by badgers, rodents that are poisoned etc. Some facts are easily swept under the carpet while farming continues to be a convenient target.”
NEW INFORMATION ON DISEASE SURVEILLANCE IN ENGLAND AND WALES: Vets have been sent updated information from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA; previously the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, AHVLA) about the new disease surveillance system in England and Wales. It provides detail on new diagnostic services in all regions and also additional improvements coming on line in the next six to 12 months. NSA encouraged members to discuss disease diagnostics with their vet to see what can be done to identify
REPLACEMENT PRODUCT TO EASE ORF VACCINE SHORTAGE:NSA has obtained new information on supply problems with the orf vaccine Scabivax Forte following the report of a shortage in last Friday’s Weekly Email Update. MSD Animal Health, which produces Scabivax Forte, will be making an alternative imported vaccine, simply called Scabivax, available from the middle of this month. The company says it is confident that farmers’ orf vaccination requirements for the season will be met. UK veterinary practices can secure supplies of the replacement vaccine directly from MSD Animal Health, and farmers are advised to contact their vet for more information.
BEWARE OF SEASONAL CRIME RISE: NSA members are advised that an increase in burglaries rural areas and theft of livestock, heating oil and food items is often experienced in the run-up to Christmas, so please do what you can to make life difficult for criminals. Avon and Somerset Police says its rural crime team will be visiting farms, businesses and stables in the coming weeks to offer property marking and encourage a reasonable level of security. They also advise rural businesses to join local Farmwatch (or similar) schemes. Inspector Andrew Pritchard says: “The weeks leading towards Christmas are a time when everyone should be particularly wary of the burglary risk posed by an abundance of high-value food and drink and livestock associated with our local businesses, as well as rural domestic burglaries.”
FREE ADVICE TO BE EXTENDED IN ENGLAND: The Farming Advice Service (FAS) says it will continue to offer information on national legislation, policies and compliance in 2015 (including sheep identification and movements, and greening under the new CAP) and also add services from 1st January for the Water Framework Directive and Sustainable Use (of Pesticides) Directive. More information at www.gov.uk/government/groups/farming-advice-service or 03453 451302.
JOINT PROJECT SEEKS MORE TASTE AND LESS WASTE: Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Morrisons have teamed up for a research project aimed at improving the eating quality and production of UK lamb. Tasting panels and CT scans of live sheep and carcases will be used to identify animal types that will produce higher quality meat more efficiently. The research will focus on differentiating between wasteful fat (which lies beneath the skin) and intramuscular fat (stored between the muscle fibres), which is linked to taste. Find out more here.
AWARD GRANT FOR EBLEX AT SAINSBURY’S CONFERENCE: NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and Chairman John Geldard attended the annual Sainsbury’s Farming Conference today in Bedford. They report that Eblex’s Liz Genever was awarded a Sainsbury’s Research and Development grant at the event, which will fund the levy board to develop the use of abattoir information in improving the data of performance recorded rams. The conference highlighted meat as the product at the top end of the quality and ‘emotional’ offer in the marketplace.
FARMING CONNECT REVIEW RELEASED: A review of Farming Connect, the Welsh knowledge transfer service, has been released. The report identifies Farming Connect as a strong brand, but calls on it to reach more farmers, suggesting that those farmers who are unaware of Farming Connect are often those who could benefit most from its work. Read the review and the Welsh Government’s response to it here.
NEW SOUTHDOWN RECORDS SET: Record prices for a Southdown ewe and a ewe lamb were set last weekend at Newark Livestock Market, Nottinghamshire. The new female breed record was set twice at 1,200gns and a new ewe lamb record was also set at 1,050gns, all for females from the Long family’s Chaileybrook flocks. The Southdown sale ran on the same day as a new multi-breed sale of in-lamb ewes at Newark, which saw a solid trade throughout. More on Newark Mart’s website.
NOT TOO LATE TO BOOK BUSINESS EFFICIENCY TRAINING: It is not too late to book a place on a Business Efficiency Training workshop before Christmas. There are two opportunities at FAI Farms, Wytham, Oxfordshire, on Tuesday 9th December, and the Sheep Centre, Malvern, Worcester, on Tuesday 16th December – click on the date for a booking form.
APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR NSA EVENT EXHIBITORS:NSA is looking forward to an exciting summer of events in 2015. Potential sponsor, trade exhibitor and sheep breed society applications are now open for NSA Welsh Sheep, NSA North Sheep, NSA Sheep South West and NSA Sheep Northern Ireland 2015. For more select the event you are interested in at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/events. Applications are also open for the NSA Sheep Centre at this year’s Balmoral Show; please contact Edward Adamson at email@example.com. Time is running out to book trade stand space at NSA Central Region Winter Fair on Thursday 29th January so contact Anne Payne, Event Organiser, without delay on 01142 883241, 07803 744437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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