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Farming

Smallholders at heart of Spring Festival

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THE ROYAL WELSH SPRING FESTIVAL, being held at the showground in Llanelwedd on 16 and 17 May, has fast become one of the most popular weekend-long events in the spring show season.

A celebration of rural life, the two-day festival, with its action-packed programme of entertainment and educational activities, free workshops, displays and main ring performances offers the perfect family day out.

The festivals roots have always very firmly been smallholding, gardening and sustainable living and over the years the event has evolved and embraced a wide range of activities and attractions with something to interest everyone.

Continually developing and expanding, the ‘new look’ Spring Festival for 2015 will have an increased emphasis on smallholding. The new dedicated Smallholder Centre, located in the South Glamorgan Exhibition Hall, has been designed specifically to cater for up-and-running and aspiring smallholders.

Whether you are after some advice, a piece of machinery, some information on buying a property or a new chicken, the Smallholder Centre is the place for you.

The Smallholder Centre puts smallholders back into the heart of the Royal Welsh Spring Festival

Packed full of with tradestands, stock, feed companies, advisory bodies, farming sundries, machinery, smallholder magazines and publications, a property roadshow, pet exhibition, talks, demonstrations, advice clinics and our ‘getting started’ stand, you’ll find everything for the smallholder in one plac e.

A regular tradestand holder, Chris Butcher from Oxdale Products Ltd, is looking forward to this year’s festival. “Last year’s Spring Festival was a great show for us. It was our fifth time at the event, the sun was shining and it was the best year to date in terms of business and interest shown by the many visitors.”

The support for the festival from the farming community has been excellent. With an ever increasing number of livestock entries, over 1,300 last year, the range of farm animals, many of which are traditional or rare breeds, on display over the weekend is exceptional.

This year a third sheep judging ring has been introduced to accommodate the increasing number of classes. We have also introduced a new ‘Have a Go’ class in the sheep section where visitors on the day can come along, get some advice from an experienced stockman and take a turn at showing a sheep – you might even win a rosette.

There are also new classes in the pig and goat sections, and a display of Bagot goats on the Coleg Cambria stand makes the festival one of the only places in the UK where you can see the whole goat family together.

“We are really putting the emphasis back on smallholding at this year’s Spring Festival.” explains Kay Spencer, the Spring Festival Honorary Director. “We understand the importance of the events core visitors and exhibitors and are committed to ensure that the festival lives up to its reputation as the number one event for smallholding, gardening and sustainable living.”

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Farming

Search is on for Welsh Livestock Champion

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NFU CYMRU and NFU Mutual are again looking to find the best livestock person working within the agricultural industry in Wales.
Now in its sixth year, the Welsh Livestock Champion of the Year Award seeks to champion dedicated, committed and enthusiastic livestock persons from all across Wales. The award winner will receive a top prize of £500 and a Welsh Royal Crystal Trophy.
Wyn Evans, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Livestock Board, who will judge on behalf of NFU Cymru, said: “Here in Wales we have some of the best quality beef and sheep in the world, produced to the highest animal health and welfare standards. This award aims to celebrate excellence amongst Welsh livestock producers.
“We want to recognise the key role an exceptional livestock person can make to a livestock farm and the Welsh livestock industry as a whole. Potential winners will be judged on their management of the flock/herd, their animal health planning, breeding programme, their stock handling skills, how they incorporate health and safety into their day-to-day activities on-farm and their vision for the future of the industry.”
Mike Thomas, Builth Wells Group Secretary who will be judging the award on behalf of NFU Mutual, said: “The quality of the stockmanship is a major factor in determining the success of any livestock business. We have some superb stock people in the industry here in Wales and I am confident that this will be a keenly contested competition once again this year and one which NFU Mutual is pleased to support as the leading rural insurer in Wales.”
The closing date for entries is Monday, November 11, and the winner will be announced at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells on Monday, November 25.

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Farming

HCC works to open the Chinese market

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A DELEGATION of government officials from the People’s Republic of China has visited Britain this week as part of an ongoing process to lift years-old restrictions on exports of UK sheepmeat to mainland China.

Organised by the UK Export Certification Partnership, of which Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is a member alongside other levy boards, industry bodies and Government, the visit brought officials from the Chinese General Administrations of Customs (GACC) to the UK to learn more about disease control measures for sheepmeat.

As well as visiting farms and processing facilities, the delegation heard from vets and other experts.

HCC Export Development Executive Deanna Jones said that the visit was another important step, following the announcement earlier this year of the signing of a protocol agreement on beef, which could lead to the Chinese market opening to PGI Welsh Beef in 2020.

“The Chinese market is, of course, the most populous in the world,” said Deanna. “If we were able to lift the historic restrictions on exports to the People’s Republic, it could be a major boost to lamb and beef farmers in Wales.

“In the summer, we made very good progress on beef following the GACC inspection and the visit of the high-level Chinese delegation with Welsh Government to farms in Wales,” added Deanna. “But we’ve always been clear that being able to export PGI Welsh Lamb is hugely important. We’re therefore pleased to see progress in this area too, although it’s too soon to say when sheepmeat exports might begin.”

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “The red meat sector is of huge importance to Welsh agriculture and the economy. As we prepare to leave the European Union, lifting restrictions could provide a great opportunity for our producers to explore new overseas markets and get a foothold in the Chinese market for our iconic PGI Welsh Lamb.”

The visit was financed from the £2 million funds of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies: AHDB, HCC and QMS.

The fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at the point of slaughter in England for animals which have been reared in Scotland and Wales.

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Farming

Farming faces zero carbon challenge

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AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.

Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.

Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.

According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.

“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.

“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.

“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.

“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.

“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

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