ON MAY 2017, a nine-year-old boy was seriously injured at a Devon farm. Travelling as a passenger, he had toppled off an ATV being driven by a 13-year-old. The younger boy, whose leg was badly crushed, spent weeks in hospital, needed a skin graft from his back and he underwent weeks of intensive physiotherapy. The older boy was undoubtedly traumatised too. In January this year, the farm partnership responsible for the boys’ welfare and safety were fined £28,333 and ordered to pay costs.
This shocking incident, like many others throughout Wales and the UK, could have been avoided if simple safety precautions had been taken and the law adhered to. Farms and farmyards can be hazardous places for every age group, but children are particularly at great risk if allowed to play, visit or help out around the farm unsupervised.
The Wales Farm Partnership (WFSP), a collaboration of all the key agricultural stakeholder organisations in Wales, has issued a warning to all rural families reminding them that ‘children should not be in the workplace, it is illegal for under 13s to ride on agricultural vehicles or machinery and work equipment like ATVs should not be used by children.’
The WFSP is determined to encourage farmers everywhere to reduce the risk of on-farm accidents through its ongoing hard-hitting farm safety awareness campaign. This month, its members will remind farmers and foresters everywhere that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards, especially where children are involved.
Being struck by or run over by farm machinery or visiting vehicles is the biggest single cause of children being killed on farms. Accidents most frequently reported in the UK involve falling from tractors and ATVs or quad bikes. But danger lurks everywhere! Year after year, we hear of tragedies involving children on farms drowning or being asphyxiated; being crushed; hit by falling objects or collapsing stacks and injured by animals.
At a working farm, unsupervised children, who are naturally inquisitive and often fearless, can face risk from almost everything in sight as well as the human element – the unsuspecting family member, visitor or delivery person who drives onto the yard, unaware children are running around freely.
Brian Rees chairs the WFSP. An experienced farm safety trainer and one of Farming Connect’s approved farm safety mentors, Mr Rees is also a farmer whose three children, all now grown up, were brought up on his family’s working farm in mid Wales.
“Farmers themselves often misguidedly believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who die or are injured in farm incidents are family members, which tells its own undeniably sad story.”
He advises that staying up to date with best practice, knowing your legal obligations and making sure that children are supervised at all times is essential.
“The most important point is that, to meet your legal duties and keep children safe, children should not be allowed in the farm work place (and for young children they should enjoy outdoor space in a secure fenced area).
“By implementing a few straightforward safeguards and by ensuring proper supervision of children at all times, every farming family can and must reduce the risks of life-ending or life-changing accidents.”
Any access to the work area by children under 16, for example for education, or knowledge experience, should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in any work activity.
Children under the age of 13 years are specifically prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine.
“If you’ve got a computer or smartphone, you can get up to speed very easily by accessing guidance on best practice from both the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website and also that of the Farm Safety Foundation, which works closely with the HSE and the industry throughout the UK.
“The WFSP is intent on raising awareness to reduce the number of farm incidents, but to achieve that, we need farming families to work with us, to take advantage of the guidance, training and mentoring available, much of it fully funded or subsidised by up to 80% for farmers registered with Farming Connect,” said Mr. Rees.
Eligible farmers can apply for up to 22.5 hours of fully-funded, confidential on-farm guidance from one of the approved ‘farm health and safety’ mentors, who are part of Farming Connect’s mentoring programme.
“Most farmers are aware that they sometimes take short cuts and don’t always follow the correct safety guidance, but having an expert to informally visit your farm and point out, in complete confidence, what steps you can take to minimise or eliminate risks could reduce the risk of accidents for many families.”
Economic value of red meat sector rises
HE VALUE of the iconic beef, lamb and pork sectors to the Welsh economy rose in 2020, as consumers turned to local, sustainable, quality food during the COVID pandemic, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).New figures from the Welsh Government ‘Aggregate Agricultural Output and Income’ report show that the total value of agricultural output in Wales for 2020 is projected to stand at £1.7billion – a 6.2% (or £99 million) increase on the provisional figure for 2019.
Cattle and sheep account for 44% of this total at £750million; the highest proportion recorded since 2016. The agricultural output value for Wales’s pig sector also increased (by 34.3% or £2 million) to a value of £8 million.
The figures reflect the strength of the livestock sector in Wales and sit in contrast to Total Income From Farming (TIFF) figures for the UK as a whole newly released by Defra. Although the TIFF figures are a different form of measuring farm production, the UK data concurs that the livestock sector has had a strong year, but in other parts of Britain, this was more than offset by poor harvests in the arable sector.
Demand for beef and lamb have been strong in the domestic retail market since the immediate aftermath of the first COVID lockdown in spring 2020. After initial market volatility, marketing campaigns by HCC and other bodies encouraged consumers to recreate restaurant meals at home.
Over the past 12 months, domestic retail sales of lamb and beef have trended consistently higher, with spending on lamb 20% higher than the previous year. Sales at independent high street butchers are also strong.
Research shows many demographic groups, including families with children, buying more beef and lamb than previously, and turning to quality home-grown produce.
HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said, “The strong demand for red meat from the domestic consumer has helped drive market prices for beef and lamb at Welsh livestock markets in the second half of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.
“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that the overall value of the industry is projected to have grown. We have seen inflation in the costs on farmers, which offset some of the gains from improved market price; however, it’s heartening to see consumers’ support for quality Welsh produce.“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef remain key drivers of our rural economy, and given their excellent brand reputation, they act as flagship products for the growing Welsh food and drink sector.”Further analysis of the aggregate output and income figures for Welsh farms are available in HCC’s latest monthly market bulletin.
Ian Rickman: 2021 is a critical year for Wales’ farming future
THE INCREASINGLY negative narrative around livestock farming and its portrayed impact on the environment and climate change has led to farmers in Wales standing up to tell their stories and highlight the positive impact livestock farming has.
Through the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ campaign ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’, farmers are addressing misleading claims by various groups about the role livestock farming plays in relation to climate change and the environment. Launching the campaign, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “The FUW has consistently recognised the threat represented by climate change and the need to take action. This is clear from a cursory look at our manifestos and policy documents published over the past twenty years.
“We know that farming is already responsible for a critical carbon resource in soils, woodland and semi-natural habitats and I’m pleased to launch the FUW’s environment campaign – ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’ from my home farm here in Carmarthenshire today. As farmers are the most trusted link in the supply chain, they are best placed to communicate their stories, helping to address consumer concerns and influencing political agendas. Members can also look forward to a variety of webinars over the coming months, which will focus on the different challenges ahead for the industry and how to overcome them.
“There is no question in our mind that we need to counteract the continuation by the anti-farming lobby of their campaign to vilify and belittle domestic food producers. These attacks are corrosive and grossly misleading, negatively influencing consumer perception of the industry and influencing political agendas on a global scale.”
Mr Rickman added that 2021 is an important year for these types of conversations.
“Knocking on our door are the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26. The FUW has been engaging with these conversations at an international level and shares some concerns with other industries across the globe about the wider narrative and ambitions set out in inconspicuous looking documents. Plans, we and the general public don’t support. Telling the positive story of the guardians of our Welsh land is now more important than ever,” he said.
Starting in the first week of June, the campaign introduces four farmers all of whom tell the story of how they are addressing environmental and climate change needs in their unique ways: Carmarthenshire organic sheep farmer Phil Jones, the Roberts family from Meirionnydd, Ceredigion dairy farmers Lyn and Lowri Thomas and FUW President Glyn Roberts who farms with his daughter Beca at Dylasau Uchaf in Snowdonia.
“The campaign will further highlight that Welsh farmers are rising to the challenge of improving soil health and increasing organic matter in soils, improvements which represent further opportunities for sequestering more carbon. These improvements, the campaign will highlight, are achieved through specific livestock grazing patterns and rest periods. The campaign is also clear that the correct options, guidance and rewards are required to encourage more farmers to adopt such systems,” said Mr Rickman.
Soil, the campaign will stress, is a long term investment and at present, around 410 million tonnes of carbon is stored in Welsh soils and 75,700 hectares of Wales’ woodland (25%) is on farmland, representing an important and growing carbon sink.
“As acknowledged in Natural Resources Wales’ State of Natural Resources Report, using land for food production is an essential part of natural resource use and management. Whilst we acknowledge that agricultural intensification has undeniably had negative impacts on some species and ecosystems, there is overwhelming evidence that other factors, including reductions in agricultural activity and afforestation, have also had severe negative impacts,” he added.
Excellent Easter for lamb sales
Lamb proved a popular choice for consumers over Easter with retail sales soaring above the last two years. This demand has been reflected at livestock markets where farmgate prices are still standing strong.
At a time when lamb is always a firm favourite, this year people of all ages were both buying and spending more as a result of a renewed interest in sourcing quality, local produce and cooking at home.
In the 12 weeks to 18 April 2021, the total volume purchased was up 14.8% on the year, and 6.0% higher than in 2019. Consumer spend on lamb reached £190.0 million, which was 18.7% more than in 2020 and 14.6% higher than the same period in 2019.
Lamb leg roasting joints were the most sought-after cuts despite the fact that Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings remained, followed by chops and mince.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) Data Analyst, Glesni Phillips said: “Lamb performed exceptionally well over the Easter period this year. It saw a 10.2% increase in the number of buyers engaging with the product and a rise of 3.3% in the frequency of which lamb was bought.
“The average price of lamb was also higher, but this obviously did not deter new buyers. The figures show that there are new buyers in all age categories, but this is especially true for shoppers aged under 45 years and those with children.
“The pandemic has led to more consumers cooking at home, giving many the opportunity to realise and enjoy the exceptional qualities and versatility of Welsh Lamb, and at the same time, support the local economy.”
Butchers also benefitted from the popularity of lamb in the run-up to Easter with total spend increasing by 16.1% on the year. The volume sold also increased, by 12.6%.
Glesni Phillips added: “As we approach the end of Spring, the consumer demand for lamb is continuing. This can be seen in the liveweight lamb prices which remain strong when compared to historical averages, with the average SQQ in Wales standing at 329.7p/kg in Wales for the week ending 15 May 2021.
“New season lambs are now entering the market – they accounted for over 70% of lambs at auction in Wales during the latest week – but the supply is still relatively tight. HCC is looking forward to working with retailers over the coming months on new activity, which will include in-store marketing, press and targeted digital communication to maintain this growth in sales. Butchers, who demonstrated their key role in the community during the pandemic, will also be offered training on a number of key skills to boost their sales even further.”
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