FIGURES released this week by Defra show that more than 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year after testing positive for bTB. They also show more than 3,950 herds that had previously been clear of the disease were affected by it.
The quarterly publication – which can be read here – gives details of bTB incidence in Great Britain. The stats show that new herd incidents and herds under disease restrictions rose in England in the year to December 2015, but in Scotland and Wales disease levels remained relatively unchanged.
The number of animals slaughtered under TB control rules declined in the edge and low-risk areas of England and in Scotland, but rose in Wales and the high-risk area of England.
Upon releasing the figures, Defra said: “Short term changes in these statistics should be considered in the context of long term trends.”The longterm data suggests: “There has been an overall long-term upward trend in the incidence of TB in cattle herds in England and Wales since 1996 [when the stats release began] although there is evidence that the rate of new incidents is levelling off in most areas of the country.”
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “These figures make sombre reading for anyone who is fighting a daily battle against bovine TB or has experienced the devastation it can cause to a farming family business.”
Ms Batters continued: “These figures reinforce the need for the Government’s 25-year TB eradication strategy to be implemented in full as quickly as possible. We have always said that all available options need to be used – cattle movement controls, cattle testing and biosecurity all have a role to play. But dealing with the disease reservoir in wildlife in areas where it is endemic is a vital part of the strategy.
Animal welfare campaigners from the Badger Trust welcomed the cattlebased measures, as well as government funding that will help farmers with the financial burden of stricter testing. They urged the government to look to Wales, where a proposed badger culling policy was replaced by cattle-based measures and a vaccination programme in 2012.
However, looking at Wales, NFU Cymru says that the latest figures starkly highlight the need for the next Welsh Government to put the implementation of a comprehensive TB eradication strategy at the top of its agenda.
According to the NFU, in 2015 8,103 cattle were slaughtered as a result of bovine TB – a massive hike of 27% on 2014 figures when 6,378 cattle were slaughtered in Wales. The number of new herd incidents in 2015 and herds not free of the disease at the end of the year remained relatively static compared to 2014 figures.
Stephen James, NFU Cymru President said: “Since 2008 over 68,000 cattle in Wales have been slaughtered because of this disease, this is despite the fact that Welsh farmers have adhered to stringent cattle movement and testing controls. This disease continues to cause untold heartache and stress to cattle farmers across Wales and places an enormous emotional and financial strain on farming families.
“Whilst we recognise that the bovine TB picture is more complex than just looking at one statistic, these figures should make politicians from all parties in Wales sit up and take notice of the impact that bovine TB continues to have on cattle farmers in Wales. The new Government, following the May National Assembly elections, must come forward and be prepared to work with industry on a comprehensive plan of action that tackles this disease in both the cattle and wildlife populations.
“Cattle movement controls, cattle testing and biosecurity all have a vital role to play in a TB eradication plan, but experience from across the globe has shown that a genuine TB eradication plan must also include a strategy for dealing with the disease reservoir in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.
“The fact that there is a global shortage of BCG vaccine means that no politician or party can hide behind badger vaccination as their sole policy for dealing with the disease in wildlife.”
Stephen James concluded: “Ahead of National Assembly for Wales elections this May we have asked all parties to clearly set out their policy for dealing with the reservoir of infection in our wildlife populations.
“Our manifesto for the elections places a TB eradication strategy that removes disease from cattle and Wildlife as a key priority in helping us to achieve our vision of a productive, profitable and progressive Welsh agricultural industry. We will be looking for the new Government to take action as a matter of urgency.”
As part of its contribution to the debate, the Badger Trust is running a Selfie campaign ‘for everyone who loves and wants to protect badgers to give us their support’.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, has reminded farmers that from 1 April the new TB Order will come into force changing the way they are compensated for cattle slaughtered for TB.
The changes are intended to reduce the risk of the disease spreading by encouraging best practice and follows a consultation with the industry.
The changes provide the Welsh Government further powers to reduce compensation where a person has not followed the rules on testing and cattle movements. Cattle keepers will always be paid the slaughter value of the animal as a minimum and payments will be capped at £15,000 per animal.
Rebecca Evans said: “These changes will penalise a minority of cattle keepers who undertake risky practices, such as failing to present cattle for testing, valuation or removal, which can contribute to the spread of TB. In these cases, compensation could be reduced by up to 95%.
“The vast majority of farmers abide by the rules and are working with us to eradicate this disease. For these people, little about how their animals are valued or compensated will change in the vast majority of cases full compensation based on market value will continue to be paid.”
Also launching on April 1 is www. ibTB.co.uk, a new website which provides information on locations of TB breakdowns to help people make informed decisions on how they can protect cattle and other animals from TB.
The TB Order was changed last year to allow the Welsh Government to publish details of herds affected by bovine TB. The aim is to provide information to help reduce the risk of the disease spreading locally and through cattle movements.
Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, said: “One of the primary goals of our TB Eradication Programme is to prevent the disease spreading to TB-free farms.
“We aim to provide as much information as possible about potential TB risks to those making purchasing and other cattle movement decisions. I encourage people to use this information to take precautions to reduce the risk of TB spreading.”
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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