NSA Members' Update - 30th November 2012

By Suffolk Sheep Society 3rd December, 2012

Complete you annual inventory to reduce risk of cross compliance inspection, Independent research suggests problems with EID are more likely to be caused by the reader than the eartag, Catherine Nakielny recognised for her contribution to the Welsh sheep sector, Thanet Council removes opposition to live exports from Ramsgate, Society has choices to make on land use and wildlife management, says Richard Benyon MP, Remember flukicides are not persistent and at-risk sheep may show clinical signs just 4-5 weeks after treatment,Successful lambing will rely on keeping an eye on ewe condition scores and forage quality – and modifying diets if necessary, Sales of ‘cuts not carcases' has reduced drop in export sales, Much talk about farm statistics – but treat figures carefully, NSA members invited to apply for a £1,000 Moredun Scholarship and NSA Events Diary.

Complete you annual inventory to reduce risk of cross compliance inspection.

All producers will shortly be receiving their 2012 Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory forms, which carries a legal obligation to be completed and returned by 31st December (England), 7th January (Northern Ireland) or 31st January (Wales and Scotland). Defra has asked NSA to remind members that not sending in a completed annual inventory form does increase the risk that a keeper will be selected for a cross compliance inspection.

 Independent research suggests problems with EID are more likely to be caused by the reader than the eartag.

Responding to claims by farmers that EID technology does not work, the Approved Livestock Identification Manufacturers’ Association (ALIDMA), which includes the majority of UK eartag manufacturers, commissioned research into the readability of EID tags in working situations. Results from the study, which was conducted independently by Adas, were presented at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on Monday (26th November).

A total of 11,352 tags were read in the study – 805 brand new tags (of which 100% read successfully), 7,633 tags in lambs in two abattoirs (of which 99.5% read) and 2,913 in lambs and shearlings on four farm (of which 98.5% read). The successful read-rates were not always a first-time read, but investigation of non-read tags often showed the tag was not faulty, drawing attention to the importance of accurate installation, set-up and maintenance of reading equipment. This might be something complicated like the use of electro-magnets on kill-lines interfering with readers at abattoirs, or something very simple like a farmer not changing the batteries in his handheld reader.

ALIDMA said it hopes the research will reassure farmers the tags they buy are reliable, but that the industry needs to act to reduce the small number of tags that do break. The research is also vital for NSA and other stakeholder groups working with Defra to argue that tolerance is needed on EID, particularly as the high read rates in the research were the result of several re-reads, something that is not possible in a working situation. ALIDMA’s recommendations can be read here, and a full report will be featured in the Jan/Feb Sheep Farmer magazine.

Catherine Nakielny recognised for her contribution to the Welsh sheep sector.

Also at the Welsh Winter Fair, sheep farmer and industry consultant Catherine Nakielny was presented with the NSA Cymru/Wales Award, with Chairman David Pittendreigh praising her achievements as a farming representative, farmer and Nuffield Scholar.

As well as her role as an independent sheep consultant, and her work increasing production levels on the family farm at Talley, Carmarthenshire, Catherine sits on the NSA Welsh Committee, represents Wales on the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee, is County Chairman of Carmarthenshire FUW and Chair of the FUW’s Animal Health and Welfare Committee. She is also a Wales representative for the Moredun Research Institute and a Farming Connect Rural Leadership Programme participant.

Her recent Nuffield Scholarship – called ‘Maximising returns through reducing methane emissions: an opportunity for the sheep sector’ – saw her travel in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia looking at the need to promote the efficiency of production and environmental benefits of sheep production when addressing the issue of methane emissions. Read more about Catherine and her scholarship here.

Other awards presented at the Welsh Winter Fair included the first farmers to pass a course on liver fluke with Dunbia, Novartis Animal Health and Lantra. The day-long courses assess participants to see how much their knowledge has increased, which Dunbia says will help farmers improve efficiency on-farm and also help Dunbia receive a more consistent product. More courses are being developed, including for grassland management.

Thanet Council removes opposition to live exports from Ramsgate.

Having suspended live exports from Ramsgate in September and then ‘temporarily’ reinstating trade until the outcome of a judicial review, Thanet Council has now removed all opposition and asked operators of the ship ‘Joline’ to drop its legal proceedings. It is not yet clear if the High Court hearing, sought by Joline’s owners and transporters using the crossing to challenge the council’s decision to impose the ban, will go ahead on 11th December.

Local media coverage and activity against the trade is still active, particularly since recent bad weather has forced Joline to return to port twice in the last 10 days. It has been suggested that protesters have created a great deal of pressure for Joline to sail in high winds, as the activity of protesters means the police have to be present each time the ship loads, making organising and re-organising shipments very difficult. Farmers involved in the live export of lambs at the current time report that 45kg ram lambs were making €120 (£96) per head in Holland last week and high demand for store lambs was pushing prices around £20 higher than in the UK.

Society has choices to make on land use and wildlife management, says Richard Benyon MP.

Addressing an audience at Reading University last night (29th November), Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, spoke about food, farming and the countryside, saying society had choices to make regarding both land use and how we manage our wildlife. Mr Benyon, who is the MP for Newbury and also a farmer, stressed that most of our landscapes and wildlife are related to farmland and farming activity, and that we have gone too far to think a natural balance in wildlife populations was possible. Addressing the question of ‘What do we want our countryside to look like in 2030?’, Mr Benyon’s response was clearly a vision of a more industrious countryside, with human activity contributing more to the economy and with good environmental outcomes expected. While this might chime with recent NSA work there is still a clear ambition from Ministers to reduce support to agriculture and ‘release UK farmers from restraining EU policies’. Interesting thoughts indeed and, while many may agree with the general sentiments, how we get there is a challenge lacking answers.

Remember flukicides are not persistent and at-risk sheep may show clinical signs just 4-5 weeks after treatment.

NSA is receiving reports of many farmers seriously struggling with fluke, which is no surprise given the wet weather, but is causing high losses on some farms. The advice from SCOPS is, if you do not already have a fluke control plan, urgently contact your vet or prescriber to discuss one, as the traditional treatment times are just not applicable this year.

Flukicides kill fluke at the time of application, but are not ‘persistent’, so the minute animals graze fluke-infested pasture again they get re-infected. And fluke numbers are currently so high sheep may show clinical disease 4-5 weeks after treatment. In the autumn acute disease caused by immature fluke is most likely, meaning triclabendazole (TBZ) is the treatment of choice, unless it is not effective on your farm. Resistance to some flukicides does occur but reinfection is more common. Another reason for drenches apparently not working is underestimating the weight of the animals, especially adult ewes.

SCOPS says using a flukicide may not be enough in very badly affected areas, so move animals to dry ground if possible, or even house them. Also be aware that while rumen fluke has been diagnosed on some farms, liver fluke is still the main threat – and that if you treat rumen fluke with oxyclozanide only adult liver fluke will be killed, leaving animals at risk from acute liver fluke. Click here for the SCOPS website.

Successful lambing will rely on keeping an eye on ewe condition scores and forage quality – and modifying diets if necessary.

Variable ewe condition scores and low quality/low intake forages means action is needed now for successful spring lambing, says Dr Colin Morgan of SAC Consulting. He warns that while supplementing poor quality silage may be necessary, there is a risk of over-feeding starchy cereals or causing metabolic upsets with sudden dietary changes.

“The stressful weather combined with an increase in sheep diseases caused by parasites has meant a difficult year for ewes, so their condition scores may be lower than usual,”he says, reminding producers that ewes should lamb in March at condition score 2.5-3, or 2-2.5 if lambing at grass. “For thin ewes, feeding should start earlier at nine weeks pre-lambing. Supplementary feeding levels by lambing will need to be higher at around 0.75kg compound/cereal per day split into two feeds. Do not leave it too late, score your ewes now and make planned changes to rations.”

 Sales of ‘cuts not carcases’ has reduced drop in export sales.

The volume of lamb exported in the first nine months of this year has dropped by 6% – but the increase in bone-in and boneless cuts (from 22% to 26%) has counter-acted a 11% drop in carcase exports.

Paul Heyhoe of EBLEX/AHDB says:“While the overall volume of sheep meat exports in the first nine months of the year has fallen, largely driven by the drop in production, it has disguised some of the trends in the UK’s export performance. One of the key developments continues to be the ‘cuts not carcase’ approach. In contrast the positive figures for exports of bone-in and boneless cuts speak for themselves, which is very encouraging.”

 Much talk about farm statistics – but treat figures carefully.

Confirmation by the UK Statistics Authority means the 2011-12 farm statistics are now being released, with media coverage of some aspects of the figures – for example, the BBC reported on the 23,000 female farmers now active in the UK, an increase of 6,000 compared to the number of men dropping by 5,000. But statistics must be handled with care – for example, the Welsh Government announced today (30th November) that the average farm business income for Welsh cattle and sheep farms was £34,600 (LFA) and £35,300 (lowland). This marks as increase of 16% on 2010-11 but makes no reference to rising input costs and, therefore, overall profit. Click here for more statistics.

NSA members invited to apply for a £1,000 Moredun Scholarship.

NSA members (who are all automatically associate members of the Moredun Foundation) have until 31st December to submit an application for three awards of up to £1,000 each from Moredun, offered in support of projects that may involve travel, work experience, science or the arts. More information at www.moredun.org.uk/scholarship.


NSA South West Open Meeting: Monday 3rd December at the Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, EX17 6DF.

A meeting with three speakers, open to members and non-members and followed by a supper. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker will speak, as well as Brian Dallyn from the British Wool Marketing Board and also Bill Harper of Harpers Home Mix on the challenges facing the ewe flock during tupping and as the lambing season approaches.

NSA Northern Ireland AGM: Wednesday 5th December at Greenmount College.

NSA NI has teamed up with Greenmount College to combine its AGM with a farm walk and conference. The day will start at 11am with a look around Abbey Farm, followed by lunch and then two guest speakers. These will be Russell Scott of Newtownstewart, the current and inaugural Farming Life Sheep Farmer of the Year, and Michael Blanche of Perthshire, who used his 2011 Nuffield Scholarship to look at ‘The Farming Ladder’ and starting in the industry from scratch with not owned land. The AGM will follow on, at around 4.30pm. More details from Edward Adamson on 07711 071290 or edward.adamson1@gmail.com.

NSA Central Region Winter Fair: Thursday 24th January 2013 at Bakewell Auction Mart (by kind permission of Derbyshire Dales District Council).

For enquiries speak to Bob and Anne Payne of the Central Region on 01142 883241 or 07803 744437, or Helen Davies, Event Organiser, on 01938 590535 or 07976 803066. Booking forms for trade stands and breed societies can be found here.

NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.

NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 27th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre. 


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