THE FARMERS’ UNION OF WALES has repeated its long standing call for a science led policy to control TB in wildlife after the Welsh Government suggested the abandoned badger vaccination pilot in north Pembrokeshire could restart in 2017.
Ministerial advice provided to the Welsh Government in 2012 suggested vaccination in the north Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Area (IAA) could cost Welsh farmers and the taxpayer an additional £3.5m compared with a badger cull.
“The results after four years of badger vaccination in the IAA appear to support the original assessment that vaccination would cost farmers and the taxpayers millions and save the lives of far fewer cattle than badger culling would have done,” said FUW Deputy President and north Pembrokeshire farmer Brian Thomas.
“Based upon trials in other areas, we could have expected a thirty or forty percent reduction in cattle herd TB incidences by now, had the original plan to cull badgers gone ahead. Instead, matters in the area are no different to other comparable areas where badger vaccination has not taken place.”
Mr Thomas was speaking after attending a Welsh Government briefing session where the results of Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) modelling of badger vaccination strategies were presented.
“A key focus of the modelling work carried out and the subsequent statement made by Welsh Government indicates a possible return to badger vaccination in 2017. In our view that would mean returning to a pointless and costly exercise which has yet to show any positive impacts, whereas badger culling as originally planned would already have resulted in significant reductions in TB incidences.”
Mr Thomas said there was also no guarantee that the BCG vaccine used on badgers would be available by 2017.
“There is currently a global shortage of BCG vaccine, and given that one badger dose can vaccinate twenty infants in regions where human TB is a huge problem, such as Africa, it would be immoral to deplete global vaccine stocks by vaccinating badgers.”
The average cost of vaccinating each badger caught in the north Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Area has been around £700.
“In the 12 months to the end of September 2015 the number of cattle culled in Wales due to TB was 7,380, an increase of 25 percent on the equivalent period to September 2014.
“That’s an equivalent to 20 cattle culled every day of the week.”
Mr Thomas said farmers were doing their part in terms of controlling the disease, and accepted that cattle which represent a risk need to be destroyed.
“Welsh Ministers need to recognise that other animals which represent a risk should also be controlled, and that to avoid the issue by spending millions on vaccinating badgers will simply make matters worse in the long run.”
Mr Thomas’s words appear to have added force following the announcement by the Welsh Government that the effectiveness and integrity of the vaccination scheme would be unaffected by its suspension for the fifth year of its five-year duration.
Following the decision to suspend sourcing the vaccine due to a global shortage, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) was commissioned to identify the likely impact the non-availability of Badger-BCG in 2016 would have on the vaccination project within the Intensive Action Area (IAA) in West Wales.
The report concludes that despite not being able to complete the fifth and final year, four years of badger vaccination would achieve a reduction in prevalence of TB in badgers in the IAA. APHA modelling showed that vaccinating for four years, missing year five, and returning to vaccinate in year six is not different from vaccinating for five consecutive years.
The Deputy Minister said: “I am grateful to APHA for completing the modelling work so swiftly and to landowners within the IAA for their continued co-operation.
“The modelling APHA carried out suggests that a gap of one year after year four is no different from vaccinating repeatedly for 5 years.
“We will continue to engage with the agriculture industry, wider rural communities, veterinary profession, Eradication Boards, and the Industry Advisory Group in the Intensive Action Area.
“We will also continue to evaluate the impact of all interventions within the IAA, including vaccination, cattle surveillance and controls and the enhanced biosecurity measures.”
Search is on for Welsh Livestock Champion
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.
HCC works to open the Chinese market
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.
Farming faces zero carbon challenge
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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