LIVESTOCK AND CLIMATE CHANGE: It has been a frenetic week for the NSA HQ team with some significant and important meetings taking place. The first of these was on Tuesday, when Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, attended a conference organised by the Sustainable Food Trust, the title of which was ‘What role for grazing livestock in a world of climate change and diet related disease?’ Much of this conference was focussed towards identifying evidence to support the case for more grazing livestock in both our farming systems and diets, partly as a soil fertility builder and sequester of carbon in soil, and partly to support a food policy of eat less overall but better quality meat. The conference was supported by researchers from Rothamstead, North Wyke, IBERS, SRUC, CEH, plus Aberdeen, Bristol, Reading, Nottingham, Aberystwyth and Gloucester universities. Phil will report more widely on the findings of the conference in a future Sheep Farmer magazine, but this is an interesting area of work that relates closely to sheep farming and some of the challenges and opportunities it faces.
STRONG FEELINGS ON RED TRACTOR CONTINUE: The same evening (Tuesday), NSA Communications Manager Joanne Briggs attended the second of three Red Tractor Assurance meetings, along with John Geldard, recently retired NSA Chairman. The meeting at Skipton, North Yorkshire(pictured) was less vitriolic than the meeting the week previous in South West England, but there was nevertheless some very strong feelings aired. As previously the meeting was split into two halves. The first provided a general update on Red Tractor standards, with some very valid points made about the need to continually assess and evolve the scheme, but without making it so onerous that existing members could not cope and potential new members could not make a start. The second part of the meeting focussed on the recently initiated consultation on whole life assurance for beef – click here for Red Tractor’s description of how this would work. NSA remains concerned about the implications for the sheep sector of whole life assurance for beef, and listened with interest to completely varying views from beef farmers at the meeting, with some wanting the change to strengthen the Red Tractor brand and other opposed to the extra onus on small-scale suckler herds selling store calves.
NSA RAM SALES GET TOGETHER: Wednesday saw the coming together of representatives from all the active NSA Ram sales – Wales and Borders, South West and Eastern, along with the NSA’s UK Policy and Technical committee. Phil reports: “The good work that is being done by the NSA ram sales to provide unique events offering pedigree stock that are inspected as being true to type and fit in the areas of teeth, testicles and feet was recognised and much discussion was had about the various needs and challenges faced by pedigree/pure bred and commercial sheep farmers. This is the first time for many years that this group of people have come together and it was agreed useful enough for it to become an annual get together.”
CONTINUED ACTIVITY ON TSEs: Thursday saw two important meetings held in London. Firstly in the morning, a joint NFU-NSA organised meeting on TSEs and carcase splitting brought together industry representatives from all the UK farming unions, the livestock auctioneers representative bodies, three bodies representing the abattoirs and meat processors, the Sheep Vet Society, along with the Food Standards Agency, Defra and devolved nations officials. The aim was to gain industry support for a potential switch from the ageing of sheep by tooth eruption to a calendar date. This support was achieved as was, in principle, that of the government agencies present. Government officials gave some guidance of the best way forward in securing any change and we now have some more work to do to progress this thinking. As always NSA will keep members informed of progress.
FEEDBACK FROM ABATTOIRS: On Thursday afternoon, NSA attended a Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG) meeting where the subject of the passing of health/parasite information back from the abattoir to the farmer was discussed. Not unusually, the issue of accuracy of identification and ensuring the right results relate to the right sheep was a hot topic. Technology platforms for accessing information and ways to make sure farmers selling liveweight (60% of lambs are sold this way) benefit from access to this information were also discussed. This is all very timely with the electronic tagging of slaughter lambs underway/planned across the UK and with the FSA actively consulting on this and related subjects.
NSA VICE PRESIDENTS PROVIDE INPUT: Friday saw the NSA Vice Presidents come together for their annual meeting. This group of long-involved and experienced people are incredibly valuable to the NSA and, as ever, we picked up some valuable ideas, support and direction for the work the association is carrying out.
WELSH ELECTRONIC DATABASE MOVING FORWARD: Helen Davies, NSA Cymru/Wales Regional Development Officer, attended a meeting with the Welsh Government yesterday to discuss progress with the Welsh sheep movements database. She reports that EID Cymru is still planned to go live in November 2015, with abattoirs and auction markets working over the summer to use it from November, and farmers being able to set up accounts from January 2016. Two EID Cymru staff members will be recruited in the next couple of months (click here for the job advert) to work with abattoirs and markets, with bureau staff expected to be recruited from May. Stakeholders at the meeting yesterday requested that information be made available to farmers through the summer. Helen adds that another meeting with be held in four to six weeks, to work through how the database will deal with different movements. At Thursday’s meeting, the Welsh Government was encouraged to move forward with the CPH review as quickly as possible, so that a move from a five-mile to a 10-mile rule could be consulted on and on-going work on quarantine units (as an optional alternative to the six-day standstill) be considered.
PICTURES FROM BAKEWELL: Following the report on the NSA Central Region Winter Fair in last week’s newsletter, photographs of the event are now available online here. Pictured here are visitors to the Texel Sheep Society stand being shown the principles of muscle depth and back-fat scanning for performance recording by Signet technician Andrew Steele. John Yates, Texel Sheep Society Chief Executive, says the focus was firmly on helping commercial and pedigree producers improve their understanding of performance recording and the benefits it can bring. “We were also delighted to sponsor the Young Shepherd of the Year competition, helping encourage the next generation of sheep farmers to hone their skills. The society recognises the immense value the younger generation has to offer the sheep industry and its support of the Young Shepherds competition is just one of a number of initiatives it is involved in over the next 12 months to help engage younger people,” John says.
ABATTOIR ABUSE UNDOES HARD WORK OF SHEEP FARMERS: NSA was shocked and appalled by the news on Tuesday of events uncovered at Bowood Lamb in Thirsk, North Yorkshire. The treatment of animals in this way is not acceptable and reflects poorly on hard working sheep farmers who maintain high health and welfare standards throughout an animal’s lifetime on farm, and we hope the Food Standards Agency takes quick and appropriate action.
MORE MEAT PRODUCED IN 2014: More lambs sent to slaughter and heavier carcase weights meant there was a 3% rise (298,200 tonnes) in the amount of sheep meat produced in the UK last year. Cull ewes and ram slaughterings were down 13% (suggesting another rise in breeding numbers) but the lamb crop was much larger than in 2013 (approximately 400,000 more lambs). These increased should be viewed against depressed numbers in 2013 due to very poor weather. Favourable growing conditions also enabled lambs to gain heavier carcase weights, with the overall average for 2014 standing at 19.4kg (0.5kg heavier than the 2013 average). Charlotte Morris of HCC says: “While it is understandable that some producers may decide to keep lambs to heavier weights in an effort to maximise price, it is worth remembering that most abattoirs set a maximum level for carcase weights. As such, going above this can lead to penalties and reduced profit.”
NO EXCUSE ON WITHDRAWAL PERIODS: NSA has learnt in recent weeks of residues of closantel (contained in some flukicides) being found in lamb after processing. Not observing withdrawal periods between treating animals and sending them to slaughter is illegal and also jeopardises the good reputation of British lamb. NSA urges all members to take care in this area – for all medicines - and consider the repercussions for the whole industry.
UPDATEONGLUCOSE: Following the story in the NSA Weekly Email Update a fortnight ago about it being very difficult to currently source high concentration glucose products, NSA has learnt that glucose saline is readily available as an alternative. It is sourced via vets and is similar to a ‘drip bag’ used in human health. The bags come with glucose at the right concentration (no dilution required) and can be used on several animals without breaching hygiene recommendations. Vets consider this to be a much more sterile solution than making your own glucose solution at home. Please consult your vet for details.
FLUKE RISK PREDICTED BY NADIS: Despite predicting a low to moderate risk of liver fluke this winter, Nadis is advising that chronic liver fluke still poses a real threat and farmers should check their sheep now for evidence of fluke to avoid losses. Sioned Timothy, Merial Animal Health’s Ruminant Technical Manager says: “Not all sheep with a fluke burden develop ‘bottle jaw’. Weight loss or poor condition may be the only signs of a problem, but should be investigated. Faecal samples from around 10 ewes will identify patent fluke infection within the flock.
BWMB ELECTIONS: NEXT STAGE: Following the British Wool Marketing Board’s call for nominations for Board Members in three of its regions, one existing Board Member has been re-nominated, unopposed; Ian Buchanan from Northern Ireland Region. With several nominations received, elections will now be held in for both the English Northern and English Central Regions. The nominated candidates for English Northern are Gordon Capstick (Cumbria), Brian Nutter (Lancashire), Carl Stephenson (Co Durham) and Trevor Wilson (Cumbria). And for English Central they are Samuel Bevin (Warwickshire), Richard Cottrill (Derbyshire), Kate Drury (Northamptonshire), Stephen Fleming (Lincolnshire), Vanessa Hallett (Shropshire), Peter Southwell (Staffordshire) and Richard Spencer (Derbyshire). Voting papers will be sent to registered producers in the two regions and must be returned by Thursday 19th March 2015.
NEW 'ASK EBLEX' SERVICE: A new monthly news round-up show is available on Eblex TV, reporting on the latest industry news and market information. Farmers can ‘Ask Eblex’ via the ‘Beef and Lamb Bitesize’ by sending in a video of them asking their question. Questions about practical on-farm issues, the Better Returns Programme, findings from Eblex research and development projects or industry best-practice will be considered. Contact email@example.com 02476 478736 for more information.
DO YOU KNOW A RURAL COMMUNITY CHAMPION? Agrii is asking the farming community and general public to noinate local community heroes as port of its nationwide campaign to identify and celebrate the people who make a real difference to the rural communities in which they live and work. Do you know a ‘Rural Community Champion’ who volunteers their time, resources or money for their local community or project, with their efforts often going unrecognised? The campaign by Agrii is supported by FCN, a charity providing guidance and support to farming families in times of crisis. Nominations received will be shortlisted to find 20 local winners, who of whom receive £50 for themselves or their local project, and these will be considered by a panel of judges to find three finalists (North, East and West) who will go to a public vote to find the overall national winner. The winner will receive £1,000 and the runners up £500 each. Click here to make your nomination by Thursday 30th April 2015.
DISCOUNTED MARKER SPRAY AND WATERPROOFS ON OFFER: Due to the culmination of a Government contract, Genus has large numbers of waterproof jackets/trousers and sheep marker spray to sell off. They are offering Sioen flexothane ‘Dortmund’ jackets and ‘Rotterdam’ trousers for £9.95+VAT each, plus batches of 12 Nettex Marksman spray cans (red, green or half-and-half) for £24+VAT. Delivery is an additional £9.95+VAT, or free for orders over £100. Call Alvin 01782 563628 (8.30am-4pm Mon-Fri) or order online at www.promardairydirect.com. Genus account holders can use their account, but non account holders can use a debit or credit card.
COMMERCIAL NEWS UPDATE: A number of companies have started the New Year with product announcements:-
M&M timber now offer a range of Agricised fencing stakes with 15 and 30-year service life warranties and online customer registration. Details on 01299 832 611 or www.mmtimber.co.uk.
Solway Recycling has extended its range of products made from recycled farm plastic to include a ‘Hay Saver’ for sheep and horses. The standard product will hold half a standard hay bale, and the ‘maxi’ version (pictured) up to six bales. Both have a base that can be filled with gravel (or similar) to weight it down. The company says Hay Saver reduces waste, is easy to move and clean, and can also be used for mineral licks. Opening reducers are available to shrink the size of the three feeder holes and creep lambs. Details on 01387 730666 or www.solwayrecycling.co.uk.
Richard Palmer is the new Global Head of Sales and Marketing at Norbrook, having spent a great deal of his career previously with Novartis.
SITUATION WANTED: Craig Burnside (29) is looking for full or part-time work on a sheep farm, with a view to taking on a full shepherding role in due course. Craig is currently based in the Scottish Borders but is willing to travel/relocate. He attended agricultural college at Oatridge, has provided lambing cover for a number of years and also has experience calving. He has recently bought a sheepdog that is developing well and has plenty of quad bike experience. References available. Contact Craig on firstname.lastname@example.org, 01387 381765 or 07437 379579.