THE ANIMAL health agency APHA and levy board AHDB are urging livestock producers across the country to submit lambs with suspected Schmallenberg virus (SBV) for post-mortem examination as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow.
Lambing flocks across the country have experienced higher than normal losses from deformed lambs with the disease so far confirmed in the South West, South East, Wales and the North East. Early calving herds have also experienced calves affected with congenital defects.
When Schmallenberg was first identified in 2011, vets noted that infected animals appeared to gain resistance after contracting the disease, however, vets have expressed concern about levels seen this year. SBV is transmitted by midges which infect sheep, cattle and goats when they bite. Infected cattle sometimes show symptoms of infection, including diarrhoea and fever, but some infected animals show no symptoms at all. If infected in the earlier stages of pregnancy, lambs and calves can be born with severe malformations that can make delivery very difficult, particularly in those with rigidly fixed limbs that may cause damage to the birth canal.
In their appeal, APHA and AHDB noted that the virus can also reduce growth and milk production in infected animals. The first Schmallenberg case in the UK was confirmed in January 2012 and there is currently no vaccine available; any infection present on farm now will have taken place last year and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate issues at the moment.
A spokesperson for the levy board and the agency said, “We have already heard of a number of cases and mainstream lambing and calving is only just starting. However, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) hasn’t received many samples so the true extent of the problem is not understood. Farmers and vets are being urged to be vigilant through the lambing and calving period. It is very important that, if producers encounter lambs or calves with deformities, they contact their vets so post-mortem examination can be carried out to establish whether Schmallenberg is the cause.
“When APHA suspects SBV they will fund the testing for SBV. Test results, whether negative or positive, allow you to confirm or rule out specific disease issues in that animal and potentially in the wider herd/flock, so there is value to the individual farm in investigation.
“At present there is no vaccine available and it is already too late to vaccinate sheep that are due to lamb this spring or cows due to calve. However, there will be vaccine available this year and further details on when will be confirmed soon. Importantly we need to discover the true levels of the virus as this will determine activity later this year, which will seek to inform what action we need to take to protect against SBV going forward.”
Dr Simon Carpenter, head of entomology, at the Pirbright Institute, an international farm animal health research centre in Surrey said, “SBV is transmitted between ruminants by midges at a far higher rate than bluetongue virus and so spreads more quickly through farms. This might also mean that it can be transmitted effectively at lower temperatures and so extend the season during which the virus is a threat.”
FUW celebrates World School Milk Day
THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales and pupils across Wales joined countries around the world to highlight the health benefits of school milk programmes and making dairy a part of a healthy diet.
FUW Milk and Dairy Committee Chairman Dai Miles said: “It’s very important that we as an industry go to schools to promote agriculture and educate the next generation about how their food is produced.
“Milk and dairy products have an important part to play in our daily diet as they provide an important source of protein and calcium and contain essential vitamins and minerals, all of which are needed for a balanced diet.
“Indeed, the exclusion of dairy products from the ‘sugar tax’ demonstrates the role such products play in a healthy diet.”
With an increasing amount of research into milk as a recovery and re-hydration aid, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting milk may be just as effective in these areas as some sports or other energy drinks.
“Milk can definitely help pupils stay hydrated and keep their energy levels up in class and it is a much healthier option than some of the sugary drinks available. I would like to thank our schools across Wales for their support today and hope that we can continue working with them on educating pupils about farming matters and where their food comes from,” added Dai Miles.
The Carmarthenshire team, including CEO Nerys Edwards, Admin Assistant Eurgan Llewellyn and FUW Presidential Policy team delegate for South Wales Ian Rickman, visited Ysgol Gynradd y Tymbl and Ysgol Gynradd Llangadog, where they introduced the children to a few facts about milk and dairy products. The children then enjoyed a milkshake and filled out a Welsh dairy word search.
The Ceredigion branch visited Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron where they went through 56 pints of milk in 20 minutes!
Pembrokeshire pupils at Ysgol Gymunedol Maenclochog, were joined by Dai Miles, the FUW’s Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Chairman, who spoke to the pupils in the morning assembly about how milk is produced.
Joining him were Branwen Miles, his daughter, who spoke about the nutritional benefits of milk and why it is an important part of your diet and Daisy, the Pembrokeshire FUW dairy cow.
The children enjoyed the FUW goody bags, which contained banana milkshakes, kindly donated by Daioni, cheese sticks, kindly donated by Calon Wen, Welsh language farming word puzzles, dot to dots, colouring sheets and stickers.
Children at Ysgol O M Edwards, Llanuwchllyn were joined by FUW Meirionnydd milk and dairy produce committee delegate Gwynfor Jarman, his wife Leusa Jarman and county chairman Geraint Davies.
They met each one of the years within the school and Gwynfor and Leusa gave a presentation on the health benefits of drinking milk. The children were also shown a short video, which included a visit to Gwynfor Jarman’s farm
Industry welcomes transitional plan
PROPOSALS for a period of transition, and protections for the Republic of Ireland and EU citizens living in the UK currently are welcome, but clarity on EU labour and farming subsidies is still needed commented Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK, responding to the PM’s speech on Brexit in Florence last week.
Dr Bryans continued: “We welcome Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals today to protect the common travel area of the Republic of Ireland and to protect the rights of EU citizens working in the UK. It is of upmost importance that the dairy sector can trade with confidence and certainty.
The EU is our biggest export market, and so it is vital we can continue to trade tariff-free and maintain a close and positive relationship whilst negotiations continue and beyond.
“We welcome a transition period as this would provide stability. However, we also believe it is important that both the UK and EU take steps to address ongoing concerns over access to skilled and unskilled EU labour and subsidies for UK farmers once this period ends. These represent key areas of concern for the UK dairy industry.
“Dairy UK will continue to represent the interests of the UK dairy sector to government throughout the negotiations to ensure our members can trade successfully, and consumers can continue to enjoy British dairy products.”
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Farmers and growers are becoming increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a ‘no deal’ departure from the EU. The resulting disruption to trade, access to labour and business stability would pose a fundamental threat to the viability of many of their businesses.
“The implementation period that the Prime Minister spoke of will be crucial if we are to reach a Brexit settlement that backs British farming, although we await further details on exactly how such a transition will work.
“We believe at least two years is needed to ensure a smooth Brexit, while also agreeing a future relationship between the EU and UK which recognises their mutual importance in terms of trade.
“With over 70% of our exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks being sent to EU markets, the NFU has been making the strongest case for a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and UK.
“We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister say there is no intention to impose tariffs where none currently exist, which the NFU takes as a strong commitment to securing a free trade deal with the EU.
“Any agreement should maintain as far as practicable the free flow of agri-food products between the EU and UK, and following today’s speech this remains a realistic prospect, although much now depends on proper progress being made in the negotiations.
“We were also very interested to hear the Prime Minister’s commitment to maintaining free movement of people involving a registration system for new arrivals. However, the industry desperately needs more detail on how the immigration system will work both during and after the transition – vague pledges and offers are not enough if potential workers are to be reassured that they can legally take up the jobs on offer.
“The Prime Minister’s speech today reflects many of the Brexit policies the NFU has proposed since the EU referendum. Despite the lack of detail, we hope that today’s speech will move negotiations forward so that there is stability for agriculture, businesses, the economy and society at large after Brexit.
“Brexit means hard choices – politicians on all sides must now start being more honest about the trade-offs involved and the difficult questions that need answering if we are to make it a success.”
Lamb fans get expert help on how to cook long and slow
DEVOTEES of Welsh Lamb across the UK have been enjoying practical sessions on how to get the best out of slow-cooking with versatile meat, thanks to an innovative brand partnership between Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and AGA.
At nearly 30 of the famous range cooker’s stores and dealerships, from Nantwich to Norwich and from Tunbridge Wells to Inverness, expert chefs have been showing customers how to create fabulous family dishes like slow-roasted shoulders of PGI Welsh Lamb. HCC also provided a range of recipe leaflets, and Welsh Lamb has featured in the AGA customer magazine.
Alongside the tastings, customers across Britain had the chance to win AGA cooking accessories through a social media competition.
The promotion is part of HCC’s work in the UK domestic market, targeting demographics known to be keen to experiment with new ways of cooking lamb.
“Working with AGA has been a great opportunity for us to showcase PGI Welsh Lamb to target consumers right across Britain,” said HCC’s Marketing Manager Rhys Llywelyn. “Starting on the 1st of September during ‘Love Lamb Week’ and continuing throughout the month, the in-store demonstrations and tastings have gone down extremely well.
“People have posted videos of the recipes online, and the number of entries to the cooking accessory competition has exceeded all our expectations,” he added. “Welsh Lamb is at its peak availability at retailers across Britain in the summer and autumn, so this was a timely way of showcasing how to create fantastic dishes from under-rated cuts such as shoulders.”
AGA demonstrator and cookery writer Sarah Whitaker, who presented four days of cooking demonstrations at AGA stores in the south of England, commented: “The best flavour was from roasting in the deep tin on the first runners in the baking oven. The lamb shoulders were quite perfect and delicious, tender and juicy!”
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