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.”
2018 Rural Crime Survey opens
IT’S THREE years since the last National Rural Crime Survey revealed the huge cost of crime to rural communities – both financial, at £800 million per year, and psychologically with chronic under-reporting, anger and frustration at the police and government – says the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN)
NRCN produced a series of recommendations and, in many areas, the police took steps to improve matters. So, now, it wants to know what’s changed.
Do you think crime has gone up or down? Do you feel safer? What’s your view of the police in your community?
In short, they want to know the true picture of crime and anti-social behaviour in rural communities across England and Wales – and the impact it has where you live or work.
Questions cover a range of issues – from whether you report crimes that you or your business suffer, to the impact crime and anti-social behaviour has on you and your area, and whether you believe enough is done to catch those who carry out the offences.
According to NRCN, it’s all about making sure the voice of rural communities is heard by those who can make a difference to where we live and work – from the Police to Government.
The survey is now available online here and is open for submissions until June 10.
The survey last took place in 2015. Then, 13,000 responded to give their impressions of crime and anti-social behaviour and revealed the financial cost of rural crime was significant – around £800 million every year.
One of this year’s focuses as they rerun the research is whether rural crime continues to be underreported. Three years ago, one in four said they didn’t report the last crime they’d been a victim of because they didn’t see the point.
Tenant farming must not be ‘Cinderella Sector’
THE TENANT FARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) is seeking assurances from Government that the farmers represented by the TFA will not be left behind as the Government develops new farming and environmental policies for the post Brexit era.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said: “BREXIT has provided a long agenda of things to do. However there is a danger that we will see Government focus on a small number of priorities in order to manage its workload over the coming months. This could lead to many sensible ideas for the development of farm tenancies falling by the wayside.
“The Government has challenged the farming industry to achieve greater levels of productivity to ensure long-term resilience. It is widely recognised that, in comparison to their owner occupier counterparts, tenant farmers are routinely some of the most efficient farmers within the UK. However they are hampered by restrictive agreements and short lengths of term leading to under investment. Also, the combination of these factors leave many tenant farmers unable to participate in existing agri environment schemes. The TFA has been in the vanguard of encouraging Government to address these issues both by amending the legislative and taxation environments within which agricultural tenancies operate,” said Mr Dunn.
The TFA was pleased when, last year, DEFRA reconvened the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) with a remit to advise on legislative and other changes that would be necessary to ensure the success of the tenanted sector of agriculture in meeting the Government’s productivity and resilience agendas.
“TRIG produced a comprehensive report for DEFRA’s consideration towards the end of last year. Whilst I am pleased that the Government’s ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation has identified the importance of the tenanted farm sector, it was disappointing that the opportunity was not taken to respond to the recommendations from TRIG and to identify which priorities the Government was minded to pursue. We are encouraging DEFRA not to sideline the valuable work that TRIG has already done in this space,” said Mr Dunn.
“Whilst it is important to address the future of the Basic Payment Scheme, trade, access to labour and look for new agri environment measures, these must not be prioritised at the expense of ensuring that tenant farmers have a flexible, long-term environment within which to develop their businesses and participate in future schemes to reward farmers for producing public goods.”
Italian students discover a true taste of Wales
FUTURE European gastronomy professionals recently undertook a study tour of Wales, experiencing the very best of Welsh food culture, including PGI Welsh Lamb.
The group of 14 students came from Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences) in Pollenzo, Italy, a world-leading establishment specialising in food studies and gastronomy where many graduates go on to work in food policy and high profile food organisations.
The students, who are all studying undergraduate programmes at the university, were undertaking a week-long study tour of Wales discovering the likes of: the Cardiff restaurant scene, cider-making in Caerphilly, Pembrokeshire potatoes, sheep farming on Wales’ dramatic landscape and traditional Welsh cheese making before heading to Machynlleth to taste Wales’ renowned PGI Welsh Lamb.
Whilst in Machynlleth, the students enjoyed a visit to William Lloyd Williams & Sons butchers where they were given a butchery masterclass and shown the versatility of Welsh Lamb cuts available. They then enjoyed a special Welsh Lamb dish, sponsored by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and cooked by Gareth Johns, owner and head chef at the Wynnnstay Hotel in Machynlleth.
Gareth created a ‘Oen Mêl’ dish comprising of Welsh Lamb shoulder, braised in cider and honey served with local root vegetable mash and shredded green cabbage.
The students received a presentation from Gareth, an Ambassador Chef for Wales who has previously cooked for the Queen, to explain why he favours the food produce here in Wales: ”I have worked in kitchens all over the globe but I firmly believe that Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef are the best in the world. The Welsh Beef and Welsh Lamb particularly found here in the Dyfi valley has incomparable sweetness and consistency.”
Gareth is the Welsh ambassador for Slow Food, which is a leading international association committed to bringing back the real value of food and respect for food producers who work in harmony with the environment and ecosystems. The Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche has strong links with the Slow Food association and this is the third time students have come to Wales and been welcomed by Gareth.
Course tutor Rowan Hallet commented: “We have all really enjoyed our trip to Wales and sampling traditional Welsh Lamb. We’ve really been able to embed ourselves into Wales’ food culture and have fostered a deep appreciation for the dedication and skill that farmers, producers, butchers and chefs have to allow people to understand and enjoy this high quality food. The evidence of all that hard work has been on our plates throughout our trip.”
Market Development Manager for HCC, Rhys Llywelyn, commented: “We were delighted to be able to meet the students and tell them the story of Welsh Lamb, whilst giving further details about how it is a fundamental part of Wales’ food history and culture.”
”The students were equally interested in eating the product as they were in asking questions about how it is produced and enjoyed here in Wales and we hope they will have left Wales with a greater understanding and appreciation for Welsh Lamb which they can take forward with them in their studies and future careers.”
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