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.”
Access to EU Single Market and Customs Union critical for rural Wales
NEWS that Northern Ireland could be granted access to the European Single Market and Customs Union shows that it is possible to achieve what the Farmers’ Union of Wales has been calling for since the EU referendum.
Speaking from his farm in Pembrokeshire, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “Different parts of the UK can’t be treated differently and we therefore call on the UK government to ensure that Wales, given its heavy reliance on red meat exports to the EU, is given the same treatment. Should this deal be offered and come to fruition we fully expect to have the same offered to us.
“In the farming community there is a real sense of worry, alarm and anger about the state of Brexit negotiations, and how the current state of play compares to what was promised by many before the referendum.
“And whilst we recognise that the Irish border situation presents some unique challenges that need to be overcome, rural Wales has challenges of its own, such the economic challenges we have long highlighted. We need to recognise the impact that failure to secure such access and reach agreement for Wales could have. Denying Wales access to the Single Market and Customs Union would have catastrophic consequences, as recently highlighted in scenarios from the FAPRI and Horizon reports.”
Farmers from Wales and Oz join forces to showcase ‘lightning lamb’
A ‘LIGHTNING LAMB’ cooking challenge featuring award-winning sheep farmers from both sides of the globe was one of the highlights of the recent Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells.
Surveys show that families in Britain have only 32 minutes on average to prepare an evening meal nowadays, as opposed to an hour in 1980. Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is taking steps to emphasise lamb’s quick-cook credentials, so enlisted the help of Australian farmer Jamie Heinrich and Breconshire’s own Richard Roderick in a ‘cookoff’ to prove it!
Jamie Heinrich hails from Kangaroo Island near Adelaide in South Australia, and operates a 2000-acre holding farming Poll Merino and White Suffolk sheep. His visit to Wales is part of a Nuffield Australia scholarship to study how to encourage young entrants to the industry.
Richard Roderick lives at Newton Farm near Talybont-on-Usk in the Brecon Beacons. He is a past HCC Scholar, and has won several farming accolades including the Silver Lapwing Award in 2016 for his environmental management. Earlier this year he featured on the BBC series ‘Nadiya’s British Food Adventure’.
With the help of HCC cook Elwen Roberts, Jamie rustled up a rapid Welsh Lamb stir-fry with oriental flavours, while Richard’s creation was a pan-fried leg steak with red wine sauce. After tasting and judging by members of the audience, the two delicious dishes could not be separated, so the Wales vs Australia match ended in an honourable draw.
“When I came over to Wales I certainly didn’t anticipate getting involved in a cookoff to promote lamb!” said Nuffield Australia Scholar Jamie Heinrich. “Many of the challenges for the industry – recruiting younger farmers and making sure that lamb is appealing to young consumers who are pushed for time – are the same the world over. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of my trip to Wales and Europe.”
HCC’s Elwen Roberts commented: “It was great fun to challenge two farmers to come up with a quick and tasty lamb recipe. They both did extremely well, and the Winter Fair audience loved seeing and tasting the food.”
“It’s important to emphasise that lamb can be an excellent choice for a quick evening meal,” she added. “HCC has recently launched a mobile-phone-friendly recipe selector on the eatwelshlamb.com website, to help give consumers inspiration for lamb dishes while on the move.”
Food Centre Wales at the Farm Business Innovation show
THE FOOD CENTREA WALES team were at the Farm Business Innovation show 2017 offering advice and support to businesses in the food and drinks industry.
The event held on November 8-9 in Birmingham highlighted the continued interest in adding value to farm produce, particularly in Wales.
Arwyn Davies, Business Development Manager at Food Centre Wales, said: “As this was the first time we had exhibited at the Farm Business Innovation show. We went in with an open mind, but we are pleased to report that it was a very successful two days. We spoke to many farm owners during the two days, many of whom were from Wales.”
Arwyn Davies’ talk on ‘Farm Diversification into Food Processing – Exploring Opportunities & Avoiding Pitfalls’ was very popular with every seat taken.
Councillor Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Economic and Community Development said: “The Team at Food Centre Wales were interested to hear all the ideas and plans people had for diversifying their farm businesses. The Centre’s food technologists were on hand to offer advice on how farmers could add value to their food produce and what could be done do to help them along the process. If you didn’t get a change to call in at the stand, the Team are more than happy to help at the Centre.”
Food Centre Wales will be following up with inquiries received at the show, with the aim to help many develop their food products and reach new markets.
If you would like to know more about how Food Centre Wales can help you, get in touch by phone 01559 362230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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