CHINESE INVESTMENT IN NZ SHOWS FUTURE ROLE OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN FOOD CHAINS: Joanne Briggs, NSA Communications Manager, is currently on a ‘work and play’ visit to New Zealand – and the trip has proved incredibly timely with big changes afoot in the red meat industry there. Today (Friday) shareholders of the farmer-owned meat processing cooperative Silver Fern Farms voted (with a majority of more than 82%) to accept a partial buy-out offer from the Chinese company Shanghai Maling. The company, which is backed by the Chinese Government, has offered $261m (around £115m) for a 50% share in Silver Fern Farms, which will not only take the cooperative out of debt but provide it with a small amount of working capital for future investment. Joanne reports: “Despite there being a growing amount of foreign investment in NZ farmland and agricultural companies, this unprecedented move for a Chinese company to buy such a large share of a major company has created some unease about China potentially moving from being a major customer to owning part of the supply chain. There is also a great deal of speculation about how Silver Fern might use the investment to move ahead of its competitors, but it seems unlikely that the buy-out will see any less NZ lamb coming to the UK. Even if Silver Fern focuses more on China, there are other NZ exporters who still see the UK as the most important destination for prime lamb. But what is of interest is how world powers are reacting in response to a growing global population and increasing food security issues. While this year in the UK has been dominated by a difficult export market and a challenging import situation, the longer-term outlook looks potentially positive at a global level.” Joanne will be providing a full report on her New Zealand trip in the next edition of Sheep Farmer magazine.
CELEBRATION OF BRITISH AGRICULTURE: 2015 marks the third year for the annual British Farming Awards, organised by Briefing Media Agriculture who own familiar titles such as the Farmers Guardian, Arable Farmer and Dairy Farmer. Thursday evening saw the awards ceremony take place at the Chateau Impney Hotel, Worcestershire, and much congratulation is in order for individuals involved with NSA past and present. Lord Henry Plumb, NSA President between 2001-2010, received the ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Agriculture’ award. NSA members Irene Fowlie, of Adziel Farm in Aberdeenshire won the award for ‘Sheep Innovator of the Year’ with John Kirkpatrick, Nethercleugh Farm, Derbyshire, being a nominee in the same category. Lewis Sayers and Sam Bullingham, both having been part of the NSA Next Generation Young Ambassador programme this year, were also nominated for the ‘New Entrants, Against the Odds’ award. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, attended the awards ceremony, he says: “It was a joy to see Lord Plumb receive his award, but not altogether surprising given his contributions to British farming over some 80 years or so! Our congratulations also go to Irene Fowlie for winning this coveted award. Although Irene has been breeding Suffolk sheep for some 30 years, this success comes after she has really focussed on the sheep after giving up a teaching career. The joy in Irene’s face, and in that of her husband James’, was just brilliant to see and a credit to what she has done. The British Farming Awards celebrated some of the inspiring things that are happening in British farming, but also gave recognition for both long standing contribution and the charitable nature of the farming world, relating to supporting those with illness and poor health within their ranks.” A full list of the 2015 award winners can be seen here.
NEW WEEK, NEW IDEAS: On Monday, Phil Stocker attended the launch of ‘Innovative Farmers’ hosted by Neil Parrish MP and Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee and Huw Irranca-Davies MP. Innovative Farmers is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The network is backed by a team from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association, and supported by Waitrose. Phil comments “This is a good example of finding answers and sharing knowledge in all aspects of agriculture and NSA has the potential for an involvement on the subject of sheep. Work within the project so far has included grazing winter cereals to control blackgrass, biological ectoparasite control and the role of Shropshire sheep in orchards. Farmers have always been, and hopefully always will be, innovators. This project could put some research structure and analysis behind small scale and practical innovation and could produce more robust findings and the chance to share the outcomes more widely.”
MEETING ENCOURAGES WHOLE SUPPLY CHAIN COMMUNICATION IN NI: The Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB) held its first Supply Chain Forum meeting at the Loughry Campus, Cookstown, Northern Ireland on Wednesday. The meeting formed part of AFSB’s mission to create ‘single supply chain’ of which one element involves facilitating effective communication between all stakeholders. Edward Adamson, NSA Northern Ireland Region Development Officer, attended the meeting, which was well attended by all links in the food-chain. He reports: “Speakers included Sarah Coleman, Senior Retail Analyst at the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IDG) who gave an overview of the retail grocery industry, and explained the difficulties the large supermarkets are having. Predictions are that discount stores and online buying will be the more successful outlets in the future, which to me means there is little light at the end of the tunnel for those looking for higher farm gate prices! Claudine Heron, from W&R Barnett, explained the global grain market and prospects. Tom Forgrave, Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) Poultry Committee Chairman also spoke of his experience of supplying Moy Park with chicken under a contract system. Volatility, Contracts, Sustainability & Competitiveness were also discussed by various other contributors.” Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture, Michelle O’Neill, also attended the meeting, to which Edward concludes: “Michelle assured those present that this was not just a talking shop, but would deliver outcomes- we shall wait to be convinced.”
ABATTOIR REGULATION MEETING COVERS EU RULES: NSA was represented at a Public Policy Exchange meeting in London recently, on how new regulations and operating procedures governing abattoirs are working, by Hamish Waugh, NSA Scottish Region representative on the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee. Hamish says, "For some time nowNSA has been critical that the operating procedures relating to the presentation of sheep for ritual slaughter are being implemented in a way that compromises achieving the best possible welfare at slaughter. NSA and other organisations have already written to the Minister on a number of occasions with scientific evidence to point out that interpreting the regulation in the current way is leading to poorer, not better welfare, and we will continue to make this case and seek compliant but practical solutions.” There were a varied array of speakers at the meeting, ranging from eminent scientists, animal welfare organisations, Trading Standards, and the abattoir sector. There was also a good turnout from Food Standards Agency, with Hamish also noting NSA to be the only farming organisation in attendance, which made its representation particularly important.
QUESTIONS REMAIN ON LEVY FUNDING ACTIVITY: Food and Farming Minister George Eustice re-affirmed his opinion that Defra Ministers should have the final say over levy money expenditure, at the Conservative party conference last week. This follows on from the considerable debate, and Stuart Roberts’ resignation as Chairman of AHDB’s Beef and Lamb board nearly two months ago now. With things appearing to have quietened down more recently, Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, comments: “George Eustice has written to me, in response to a question I posed, saying that he is committed to ensuring that levy money is not wasted but is spent efficiently. This might be commendable but still raises serious questions. The delay caused by this system of approval did lead to delays in planned promotional campaigns at a time when sheep farmers needed it most. That was inexcusable then, and it would be even more so if it were to happen again. For me, there are still questions to be asked over the planning and approval of levy funded activities in the long term, but in the short term we need to ensure that planning procedures are brought forward so that activities are discussed and agreed, planned out, and signed off way in advance. There are inconsistent messages coming from our levy bodies as a whole, with some people saying they do work and others that they don’t. We need to work towards a better understanding of what is actually the case, and which approaches work best as well as the need for a greater degree of openness on the impact of generic promotional campaigns.”
UPDATE FROM DEFRA ON SLAUGHTER REGULATIONS: NSA has been informed by Defra that the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) regulation (WATOK) will come into force on Thursday 5th November 2015. The current (1995) regulations, the Welfare of Animals Slaughter or Killing (WASK), will be revoked at the same time. The devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have the equivalent of WATOK in place, meaning this change relates to abattoirs and slaughter-men in England only, who will more than likely be well-aware of this change already. NSA would like to remind members holding a licence under the 1995 WASK regulations, or under grandfather’s rights, to update to the new Certificate of Competence (CoC) required under the new WATOK regulations. This needs to be applied for via the Food Standards Agency (FSA) before midnight on Tuesday 8th December 2015- Click here for the relevant pages. The change affects anyone slaughtering animals including ‘knackermen’ as well as small scale facilities on farms and NSA encourages members to take action if this affects them, or mention it to others you think it might.
CONSISTENT EXPORT IN SCOTLAND: Scottish red meat exporters attended Anuga, one of the world’s largest food fairs in Germany, this week and appear united in the view that the export market remains a very important opportunity for Scotland. Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said that despite the on-going challenges of the global economy, including the influence of exchange rates, Scotland’s exports of red meat have held steady during the past year. A QMS survey highlighted a 4.3% rise in the total red meat exported from Scotland for the year ending September 2015, for which lamb accounted for 45%.
DEVELOPING KEY BUYER RELATIONSHIPS: A group of international food buyers, from Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, also visited a Perthshire farm last week, organised by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). The trip assisted them in learning about the quality assurance, traceability and animal welfare which reinforce Scotch Beef and Lamb production.
TRENDS:QMS went on to highlight that, compared with 2014, the volume of lambs reaching the market has, notwithstanding the moving date of Muslim festivals, been running slightly ahead this year. 5% more lambs but 5% fewer cull ewes were handled between June and September, said QMS, adding there has been 7% rise in sheepmeat production on 2014, a trend which is set to continue throughout October.
FOCUSONFINISHING PLANS FOR BEST RETURNS: Sheep farmers may need to consider alternative ways to finish their lambs this autumn and winter if they want to achieve maximum returns from their stock, warns Iwan Vaughan, ruminant specialist at Wynnstay. His advice to farmers is to assess the benefits of various systems (including grass, feeding on roots or forage crops, or finishing indoors), to be willing to try something different, to plan ahead for the coming winter months, and to stick to this. “Finishing lambs on deferred grazing is an option when grass isn’t required for the breeding ewes, and offers a cheaper way to finish lambs,” he says, adding the cost of the finishing period should be calculated when lambs are on tack. He advises that root and forage crops should be ‘strip-grazed to limit wastage’, finally adding that indoor finishing requires careful management and treating bought-in store lambs is essential to avoiding slowing of finishing.
LAMB RUG TRIAL – CAN YOU HELP? NSA has been approached by a small animal rug company on whether there are any members from NSA Cymru/Wales Region who would be willing to trial its product during the lambing season, with the view of giving some feedback on its performance. Those interested can get further details from NSA Cymru/Wales Region Development Officer, Helen Davies, on 07976 803066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DON’T BE DECEIVED BY FLUSH LOOKING GRASS: Despite the late abundance of grass growth, which has come at an optimum time for flushing ewes’ pre tupping, don’t be deceived is the message from David Thornton, Technical Manager at Rumenco. Changeable conditions have led to unexpected levels of grass growth, resulting in a ‘flush’ of grazing, but recent fresh grass analysis has shown that dry matter levels are consistently low, warns David. He says: “At this time, where many farmers are thinking about putting the tups in, it’s important to consider that a ewes’ demand for protein and energy increases, and meeting these requirements is key to good conception rates.Autumn grass alone may not be able to provide this level of energy a ewe needs before and during tupping, and if ewes need to put on condition, farmers should consider balancing out any deficiencies between ewe’s energy demands, and grazing supplies, being mindful of the nutrition in grass at this stage will pay-off in the long term”.
SURVEY: LIVER FLUKE: Oxfordshire student Flo Jenkins has asked if NSA members could please complete her short survey on liver fluke and hypomagnesaemia. The survey will form part of an extended project qualification she has undertaken, looking into the extent to which poor land management affects diseases in sheep. Click here for a link to the survey.
SHEEP HURDLES FOR SALE: The Royal Agricultural Society for England (RASE), now part of the Innovation for Agriculture initiative, has informed NSA it has 1,200, 44 inch, second hand sheep hurdles for sale. They are £8 each and can be collected (only) from Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ. Anyone interested can contact Emily Stillwell on 02476 692 470 or email email@example.com for more information.
REMINDER FOR WALES COMMITTEE MEMBERS: The next NSA Cymru/Wales Region committee meeting will be on Wednesday 11th November at 2.15pm in Neuadd Henllan on the Royal Welsh Show Ground, not the previous day as originally stated in Sheep Farmer magazine.
TIPS TO MAKE MORE MONEY FROM LESS INPUT: NSA corporate supporter, 3IN1FEEDERS, will be touring Great Britain at the beginning of November (Monday 2nd- Thursday 12th) on its ‘Making More from Less’ Roadshow.The six information sessions will include talks on animal nutrition from independent consultant and Harper Adams University lecturer Kate Phillips and Debby Brown, Veterinary Ruminant Specialist. Feeder best practise advice, trial and research results, managing feed outflow and more will be covered at each location as well as plenty of Q&A opportunities. The meetings are free to attend but pre-registration is required at http://3in1feeders.co.uk/reservations. You will also find additional information and dates and/or locations of meetings by following the link.
SITUATION WANTED- ANYWHERE IN THE UK: Rachel DesCotes (23) is originally from Canada but is now looking for a full time position, working with sheep anywhere in the UK, she does not require accommodation. Rachel graduated with a degree in Animal Science from Lakeland Agricultural College, Alberta, Canada. During her time there she was part of the college campus’ flock management team and undertook a shepherding role after graduating for a year, before coming over to the UK. Rachel holds a driving licence and has her own vehicle. References can be provided. Contact Rachel on 07470 669008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.