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.”
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.”
HSE fees up 20%
A FEE imposed on farm businesses found to be in breach of health and safety legislation has gone up nearly 20% to £154/hr.
Since October 2012 the Health and Safety Executive has operated a cost recovery regime, which means that businesses are charged for the costs of an investigation from the point a material breach has been identified through to the point when a decision is made on enforcement action.
If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help you put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action. This charging scheme is known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI).
Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist for Strutt & Parker said: “A material breach is something which an inspector considers serious enough that they need to formally write to the business requiring action to be taken. Once an inspector gives a farmer this written notification of contravention (NoC), the farmer will be expected to pay a fee.
“From 6 April 2019, the hourly charge has been increased from £129 to £154. The final bill will be based on the total amount of time it takes the HSE inspector to identify the breach and their work to help put things right.
“Of course, the primary reason for farms to be proactive in their approach to health and safety should be to protect themselves, their families and any employees.
“The number of people who are killed and injured each year on farms remains stubbornly high and the human cost of these incidents can be incalculable to those affected.
“But taking a safety-first approach should also help farm businesses to avoid a financial hit, as the HSE fees can mount up in the event of an investigation.”
Red meat gives ‘Taste of Wales’
WELSH Lamb and Welsh Beef were among the finest of Welsh foods at Wales’ largest and most prestigious food and drink trade event, Taste Wales last month.
The remarkable display of products, all under one roof, brought together a large contingent of UK and overseas buyers, including importers with a specific interest in Welsh red meat. These included a major foodservice and retail importer and distributor from Scandinavia that imports 6,000 million tonnes of meat annually from all over the world. The company is recognised for bringing tasty food experiences to Nordic dining tables.
They were invited to the event by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) who also arranged site visits to some of Wales’ major red meat processing plants. The main aim was to impress the importers with the industry’s high ethical and environmental standards.
The visit, led by HCC’s market representatives in Scandinavia, was a platform for many productive and promising discussions.
One representative, Anette Stenebrandt said at Taste Wales: “We have a company from Sweden and Finland with us, trying to do some new business in the Nordic-speaking countries. This is really a fantastic fair and we have enjoyed it a lot.”
Her colleague Jakob True added: “This is our first time here at this amazing event, it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of Welsh producers, particularly Welsh Lamb which is world-class, we know. We’ll go back to Scandinavia with a lot of good new leads and hopefully bring a lot of business to Wales.”
HCC’s Market Development Manager, Rhys Llywelyn said: “Many of the buyers we met at Taste Wales, including the Scandinavians, showed a significant interest in Welsh Lamb and were impressed by the whole package – from the story of producing Welsh Lamb to the processing techniques, the taste and texture.
“Others also expressed a keen interest in forging deals with the industry, including a Japanese department store, a major buyer from Hong Kong and a representative from Qatar. This bodes well for the future, especially as Brexit uncertainty is set to continue in light of the extension on Article 50.”
In recent months, HCC has undertaken a strategic GB marketing drive to encourage growth and recognition of our quality produce on British soil.
HCC’s UK Market Development Executive, Emily Davies said: “Our presence at Taste Wales also included concentrating our efforts on promoting Welsh Lamb in the domestic market. We met a number of foodservice companies, retailers and executive chefs and discussed Welsh red meat opportunities with meal-kit companies and online retailers. We also launched a new tool-kit for retailers which highlights the ways in which we can work with them to promote Welsh Lamb and Beef.”
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