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.”
Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues
THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.
Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.
Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.
Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.
“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.
Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said; “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.
“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.
“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”
NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG
NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.
In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.
Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.
“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.
“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.
“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”
Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.
“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence. We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”
Export push for Welsh Lamb
PGI Welsh Lamb will feature in export marketing events in Dubai and Qatar over the coming months, despite Coronavirus restrictions, with the industry aiming to continue a major growth in exports to the Middle East region.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) will have a presence at the upcoming Gulfood 2021 trade show during February 21-25 with support from the Welsh Government via the Enhanced Export Fund. The event, which takes place in Dubai, is the first global trade show to take place in nearly a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In-market representatives will promote PGI Welsh Lamb to buyers at the Covid-secure event.
The Middle East is an important and growing export market; newly published export data shows that the volume of UK sheepmeat exports increased by 18.3% on levels seen in 2019 and a hefty 368% compared to 2018. HCC helped to secure four new retailers as stockists of PGI Welsh Lamb in Qatar over the last year along with a high-end online retailer in the United Arab Emirates.
HCC’s Export Development Executive, Deanna Jones, explained ‘Welsh Lamb exports have grown rapidly in the Middle East over the last few years and the market now sells Welsh Lamb through wholesale, retail and foodservice.’
‘Whilst we will not be attending any events in person, it is important that Welsh Lamb has a presence at Gulfood 2021 and other trade events as we continue to build the customer base and profile of our products.’
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am very pleased we have been able to support Hybu Cig Cymru as they continue to promote Welsh produce internationally – particularly given the increasing export value of the Middle East to Welsh Lamb producers.
“While restrictions mean delegates will not be able to attend in person, it is vital that Wales continues to have a presence at trade events such as Gulfood 2021, and I am very pleased Wales will be at the table in Dubai.”
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