Round up of all the latest news from the National Sheep Association
NSA ACTION TO DISCOURAGE LYNX RELEASE: NSA has been busy since the announcement of plans to release lynx into three areas of the UK (Aberdeenshire, Cumbriaand Suffolk) after 1,300 years of extinction. NSA has written to Natural England, who would have to approve any release plans in England, and also Lord De Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defra, who would give any Natural England approval the final sign-off. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, reports: “NSA was heartened to receive a speedy response from Natural England, assuring us that, if and when it receives an application from the Lynx UK Trust, it will consult ‘all relevant parties’ and consider the socio-economic impacts of the reintroduction, as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves. This is vitally important, as the project will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems and challenge the viability of sheep farms. This will, in turn, have a damaging impact on farmers’ livelihoods and businesses if the lynx prey on sheep.” NSA issued a press release this week on the topic. Click here to read it in full.
U-TURN FOR ENGLISH BPS CLAIMS – AND EXTENSIONS IN OTHER NATIONS TOO?In an incredible turnaround, the RPA has gone back on ‘online only’ applications in England for the new Basic Payment Scheme (replacing Single Farm Payments) and also extended the deadline by a month to 15th June. This follows ongoing problems with the new IT system, even after recent assurances from the RPA and Ministers that everything would be ok. While England is undoubtedly caught up in this fiasco, it is not alone and EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan has given approval for a one-month extension across all EU member states. That means Scotland, Wales and NI now have the option of extending their deadlines, and while England was the only nation pushing the process online, we all know the new system has brought different problems in different areas and an extension would be no bad thing, especially now the EU has said there will be no penalties for this. Speaking about the English situation in particular, NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “While we have been given constant reassurances that the system would be ready, we are now where many people predicted, which does not give farmers much confidence in national IT initiatives. At least the EU and our own Ministers have finally recognised the situation and made a decision to act.”
FURTHER CAP DETAILS FROM SCOTLAND: The Scottish Government has said that, while the new round of the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) is largely unchanged, active farmers in LFAs who could not meet the conditions of the 2009 historic base year, can try again to apply for support. They will still be required to meet all the scheme eligibility criteria and conditions set out in the full guidance, but because the scheme is now based on land and stock maintained in 2013, additional people may be eligible. Click here for more information. In addition to new LFASS guidance being issued, the Scottish Government website now also has updated information on the Full Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, as well as endorsements within the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and a step-by-step guide to applying for the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme. Click here. The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and Forestry Grant Scheme will open on Monday 30th March and close on Friday 12th June 2015.
POLICY FOR CLAIMING BPS ON COMMON LAND IN ENGLAND ANNOUNCED: Defra this week confirmed a change in policy in the way Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) may be claimed on common land, compared to the old Single Payment Scheme (SPS) method. Previously a commons user had been able to claim a proportion of the total area of the common, based on the number of rights held as a proportion of the total rights recorded in the register for that common. Under the new rules, BPS may be claimed on a proportion of the area which will be calculated according to the number of rights held by the claimant against the total of rights held by farmers who make a BPS claim in that year. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “This should deal with the old ‘naked acres’ problem and should in theory (on most commons) lead to higher areas being able to be claimed. However, the commons re-mapping process is resulting in the total areas for most commons being reduced due to scrub and bracken encroachment, and rocks and scree being identified – so in many cases the total area is reduced. It sounds a bit like giving with one hand and taking with another and, as always, there will be winners and losers.” Defra has told NSA that detailed guidance, plus information on entitlements and back claims, is being prepared and will be sent to claimants shortly, with a commitment that commons maps will be with claimants by next Friday (27th March). NSA and others have made Defra aware of the short time scales and the busy nature of sheep farmers at this time of the year when so many changes are taking place.
COMMONS COUNCIL CONSULTATION FOR BODMIN MOOR: In other commons news this week, Defra has opened a consultation on an establishment order for a Bodmin Moor Commons Council. This is obviously of particular interest to NSA members around Bodmin Moor, but hopefully of wider interest to all commons users. The consultation is to determine whether there is adequate support in establishing a Commons Council for Bodmin Moor, as set out in Section 27 of the 2006 Commons Act. The consultation is open to all, although thankfully the Secretary of State must pay particular regard to responses from the commons rights holders, occupiers and those with a legal function on the common. Access the consultation here.
NSA EVENT PROMPTS IMPROVEMENTS TO ARAMS: Defra attended the NSA Central Region Winter Fair in January, where members of the identification and movements team picked up criticism that the ARAMS online system for England was not particularly searchable – i.e. farmer users could search movements within a 14-day window. NSA has been informed that the movement search window has been enhanced and has the ability to find movements within a three-year maximum window (although the system does not yet hold three years’ of data. User still needs to enter a start and an end date for their search, but the options are greater than before.
FIRST MEETING FOR SCOTTISH SHEEP DISEASE ERADICATION GROUP: The first meeting of the sheep disease eradication group was held this week, organised by Scottish Government at the request of NSA. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the potential for the sheep industry to follow in the steps of the cattle sector and its work on BVD, to identify a sheep disease that could possibly be eradicated. George Milne, NSA Regional Development Officer, reports: “The aim would be work jointly – industry and the Government – to come up with the best way forward. Discussion at a recent NSA Scottish Region meeting revealed scab, OPA, CLA, MV and lameness/footrot as the main concerns of members, which I explained to the eradication group. Each disease was discussed in detail with all factors being considered. Various members of the group will now collect further information and I shall be consulting with NSA Scottish Region Committee before progressing further.”
OPPORTUNITIES IN THE HALAL SECTOR: NSA attended an Eblex-ran seminar on halal meat on Tuesday, mostly attended by members of the processing sector with a specific interest in the halal market (stun and non-stun), but also others from throughout the lamb supply chain. Joanne Briggs, NSA Communications Officer, reports that a presentation by JP Garnier, from the Eblex exports team, was of particular interest as it highlighted the growing potential for British halal lamb and mutton to be exported to Europe. Joanne says: “JP urged the processors at the event to exploit these opportunities, saying the market was big enough for them all to sell into, rather than being competitive with each other. There are less global players in the halal sector so British exports are in demand despite being a higher price. JP also highlighted the potential to make bigger margins by exporting cuts instead of carcases.” Outside of Europe, JP urged processors to do their part by seeking Memorandums of Understanding with export destinations for whichever halal certification scheme they used, and this tied in with an overall theme of the event, for there to be more communication between Eblex and the halal sector about what work and input was needed to push things forward, both for the domestic and export market. Joanne reports that results from two studies were also presented at the event: “The first study clearly showed that restraining sheep individually at slaughter, as required by law in non-stun halal situation, causes more stress than when animals are allowed to follow their natural flocking instinct and stay together. It is hugely alarming that Defra has reportedly ignored this peer-reviewed data and will not change the law. Many issues like this are being stalled by the forthcoming election but it is vital that they are picked up again afterwards and changes made.” The second study related to stun halal slaughter, showing that even though the law now requires a higher electrical current to be used, it is still the neck cut that is fatal, not the electricity. This is an important in the debate within Muslim communities about whether stunning at slaughter is acceptable to their religion.
NSA NEEDS YOUR HELP ON SHEEP WORRYING: Thank you to the small number of NSA members who responded to the plea in this newsletter for sheep worrying case studies – BUT WE STILL NEED MORE. The original request was for NSA members willing to share their experiences (preferably as a named individual rather than anonymously) and provide photographs to be featured at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/dog-worrying. We are still looking for volunteers for this, but if you would prefer to just send us photographs of dog attacks and no additional information that would also be useful. Please email email@example.com. If you state that you are willing to be a case study in addition to providing pictures you will be contacted for a short telephone interest at your convenience.
THIRD OF 12 EID READERS GIVEN AWAY: With 12 Shearwell EID stick readers kits to give away as part of our 2015 membership recruitment campaign, NSA is pleased to say thethird winner is Chris Mallaber of Staffordshire. Chris found his trip to the NSA Central Region Winter Fair in January so enjoyable and informative that he decided to sign up as an NSA member on the day – and then went on a few weeks later to be the lucky winner of a Shearwell stick reader kit as a result. Click here for more about Chris and his win. And remember, it is not only new members who qualify for the prize draw – existing members are entered every time they refer a new member, with no limit to the number of entries. Find out more atwww.nationalsheep.org.uk/draw.
SUCCESSFUL ‘SECOND ATTEMPT’ FOR JUNIOR SHEPHERD COMPETITION: Wintery conditions on the day of the NSA Central Region Winter Fair in late January meant the Junior Shepherd Competition could not be completed in full – but competitors and organisers refusedto be put off and the contest has now gone ahead. Organisers say it was a very tight contest and the final result between the nine teams saw first place for Lady Manners School, Bakewell, Derbyshire, second for Thomas Alleyne’s High School, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, and third for Anthony Gell School, Wirksworth, Derbyshire. The winning team from Lady Manners School, actually had a little help from another school too! Natasha Clarke, Will Hancock and James Mellor from Lady Manners were joined by Josh Ellis from Ripley Academy to create an unbeatable team of junior shepherds. They are pictured in the middle of the photo, flanked by John Parsons (DART tutor) and Sarah Helliwell (NSA Central Region Vice Chairman) on the left and Ann Litchfield (Competition Organiser) on the right. Click here for a full report.
LORD MAYOR VISITS BWMB: The British Wool Marketing Board, based in Bradford, WestYorkshire, hosted its local major this week, highlighted the importance of the wool industry to the economy. The Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Mike Gibbons, Lady Mayoress Elizabeth Sharp and Roger Bowers, the Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, were greeted for their visit by Malcolm Corbett, BWMB Chairman, and Ian Hartley, BWMB Chief Executive (pictured). Mr Corbett says: “We welcome the opportunity to host the visit and hope the Lord Mayor enjoyed finding out more about the wool industry, which has been and continues to be a significant industry in the UK, as well as in Bradford and the surrounding areas.”
RAISE PRODUCTION TO CUT EMISSIONS: A report commissioned by HCC has confirmed that improving production efficiency, rather than reducing livestock numbers, is a good way to cut the carbon footprint on farms. Researchers at Bangor University examined management practices on 15 farms and found reducing the time to fatten livestock and send them for slaughter produced good results. Other efficiency improvements include optimising the number of lambs per ewe to suit the production system, maximising home grown forages and rationing bought-in feeds effectively, and incorporate legumes, such as red and white clover, into grass leys. The work by Bangor University is part of ongoing activity around the Welsh red meat industry environmental roadmap, which was first published in 2012 and is being kept under constant review until a final report is published near the end of the decade.
WATCH OUT FOR NEMATODIRUS: The SCOPS nematodirus warning system atwww.scops.org.uk says reports of hatching in Devon mean the risk in that area is now amber and farmers with early-born lambs (those who are eating grass) may be at risk. For more information, and the risk in other areas, go to the website.
FREE BUSINESS PLANNING ADVICE FOR WELSH FARMERS: Next week sees the start of a series of Farming Connect ‘‘DIY Business Planning’ workshops. Each workshop is fully funded and lasts for one day, enabling farmers to master the basics of preparing a business plan tailored to their own business requirements. Click here for dates and booking details.
YOUNG SHEPHERDS INVITED TO NSA HIGHLAND SHEEP: Entries are now open for the Young Shepherd of the Year competition at NSA Highland Sheep 2015, to be held at Fearn Farm, Tain, Ross-shire, on Tuesday 9th June. The competition is open to working shepherds, farm workers, students and other youngsters with an interest in sheep who have left school and are under the age of 26 on June 29 and have the minimum BWMB Blue Seal Certificate. The winner will receive the NSA Highland Sheep Rose Bowl and a cash prize of £300, with £200 going to the runner-up and £100 for third place. The highest placed competitor under the age of 21 will also receive a prize of £100. “If you have competed before, we would love to see you again and first-time competitors are equally welcome,” says Dave Turner, competition organiser and former head of agriculture at SRUC Oatridge. “There are no restrictions on how many times you compete, other than age.” To be in the competition, request an entry form from Euan Emslie and make sure you return it before 1st May. Contact Euan on 01430 441870, 07718 908523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
INPUT WANTED ON CORDLESS SHEARING: After three years of research and development, Pro-Vado Show Stock Innovations now has prototype cordless sheep shears and is looking for farmers to provide input into the final phase of its development. The company says the new product offers the same torque and speed as standard shears, but with the added safety feature of no cord to trip over or get caught in sheep’s feet, and is keen to receive feedback from potential future users. Email email@example.com to communicate with Pro-Vado about the development of this product.
STUDENT LOOKING FOR UPLAND FARMING VOLUNTEERS: Jack Davies, a student at the Royal Agricultural University, is writing a dissertation topic on the sustainability of upland farmers in the UK, looking at what challenges they face and the opportunities that are available to keep up with the changing economy. He would like upland farmers to spend around 15 minutes filling it his survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/uplandfarmsurvey, and is also looking for three of four case study farms for an more in-depth visit. Contact Jack firstname.lastname@example.org or 07531 388940.
SITUATION WANTED: Edith Lux (33), currently based in Hampshire, is looking for a full or part-time position on a sheep farm. She is willing to consider relocation within the UK for a permanent position, but would require accommodation if a position is not permanent. Edith has experience in working with sheep including lambing, vaccinating, crutching and drafting. She is confident in stock handling, has a full driving licence, experience in tractor driving, basic stick welding skills and has seven years of agricultural experience. Edith says she can provide excellent references. Contact her on email@example.com or 07843 964486.
NSA DIARY OF EVENTS:-