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Farming

FUW calls for halt to badger jab

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On the rise: Cattle culling numbers up last year

On the rise: Cattle culling numbers up last year

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.”

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

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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.

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Farming

Ian Rickman: 2021 is a critical year for Wales’ farming future

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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.

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Farming

Excellent Easter for lamb sales

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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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