NSA Members' Update - 15th February

By Suffolk Sheep Society 18th February, 2013

Schmallenberg (SBV) latest, Big promotion of English meat this weekend - and massive boost to Scottish lamb on the way, Take action on liver fluke NOW to minimise losses, NSA Northern Region welcomes a new Chairman and recognises a stalwart of the industry, Positive visit to UK by French supermarket, Sheep producers urged to take up performance recording, Two university students looking for on-farm placements - can you help?, Request for farmers in NSA Northern region to help with university dissertation, NSA Diary dates

Schmallenberg (SBV) latest

From reports being received at NSA HQ it would appear that fewer lambing flocks are now experiencing SBV compared to those lambing before Christmas and early into the New Year. This might be expected on two fronts – as the tupping season progressed midge activity should have reduced, and probably more of the early lambing flocks were synchronized compared to those lambing now.


We now have some additional information from a recent European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) meeting:-

  • SBV has a very high level of ‘vector competence’ compared to other viruses and it is this that is accounting for the fast and wide spread of the virus across the country.
  • EU Members States, including the UK, are still saying that on an industry level SBV will have a low impact (although everyone recognises that for those farmers affected the suggestion that it is low impact can be offensive), but the impact on synchronized flocks can be far higher.
  • There is strong evidence that there is very high protective immunity in individual sheep that were affected in the previous year, and there is fairly high prevalence of antibodies (87-98%) across flocks that have been exposed.
  • There is talk of the virus being present and infective in semen but this is not proven. AHVLA are to do some research into this, and scientists are very skeptical that in natural mating or AI this spread of infection would happen.
  • Approval of the application for authorisation of a SBV vaccine is still underway and Ministers, Defra, AHVLA, and VMD have all been made aware of the importance of this vaccine to the livestock industry.
  • To finish with some good news – there has been exhaustive research completed that has shown there is no risk to human health of the current Schmallenberg virus.


Big promotion of English meat this weekend – and massive boost to Scottish lamb on the way.

Look out for promotion of British meat in your newspaper this weekend, as both Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) and NFU have paid for adverts to appear across the national press. This is in direct response to the horsemeat scandal and the adverts are designed to reassure consumers that products carrying the Red Tractor logo are traceable and trustworthy. The RTA adverts, which carry the Red Tractor, Quality Standard English Beef and Quality Standard English Lamblogo, states: “Now more than ever, it’s important to know the meat you’re buying comes from a trusted source. All fresh beef, lamb, pork or bacon that carries the Red Tractor or Quality Standard labels meets high production standards and is fully traceable back to independently inspected farms in the UK. It’s the easiest way to be sure of the provenance of the meat you’re buying.”


And in Scotland, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s promise of £250,000 to promote Scotch Lamb has been confirmed with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) now having funding for addition lamb promotion. This is in direct response to pressure from the sheep sector (including a one-to-one meeting with NSA Scotland and a cross-industry meeting chaired by NSA Scotland) for Mr Lochhead to support lamb producers struggling with low farmgate prices. A further boost has been provided by Mr Lochhead with the promise of another £750,000 in the future, to promote Scotch Lamb, Scotch Beef and Scotch Pork.


Take action on liver fluke NOW to minimise losses.

The number of thin ewes about has prompted SCOPS to urge farmers to take immediate action. Peter Baber, sheep farmer and SCOPS chairman, says: “While there are a number of reasons why ewes may be thin, a liver fluke burden is still a major risk factor. The challenge from high levels of liver fluke on pasture continued throughout the first two months of 2013 and many farmers seem unaware that if sheep are put back on high risk pastures they will need to be re-treated with a flukicide five to six weeks later to avoid losses. This means treatments are required more frequently than farmers are used to and SCOPS suspects that there is also confusion because some products used are persistent against worms, but not against liver fluke.”


Advice from SCOPS:-

  • Check ewe body condition and identify thin ewes NOW. Look for symptoms such as bottle jaw.
  • Segregate thin ewes and increase feed levels according to a forage analysis. Even though treatment may have removed the parasites, some ewes will have badly damaged livers and will need additional inputs to get them through lambing.
  • Follow up any sheep going direct to an abattoir. Ask for feedback and if livers are rejected, find out why.
  • Investigate losses and other possible causes of thin ewes – ask your vet to carry out post mortem examinations on deaths and discuss actions to minimise losses in the run up to lambing.
  • Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up to date; Black Disease is a major risk where livers have been damaged by fluke.


SCOPS also says farmers need to start planning ahead now to minimise the impact of liver fluke next season:-

  • Reduce the amount of pasture contamination this spring by using a treatment that kills any adult liver fluke that have survived in the sheep. Consult your vet or adviser to make sure you choose the right product.
  • Implement management controls where possible. These include identifying the high risk areas on the farm and putting measures in place that will avoid them. Practical steps include fencing off wet areas and attending to leaking troughs, pipes and drainage.
  • Plan to test that your flukicide is working. On high risk farms where triclabendazole (TCBZ) has been heavily relied on it is vital to check that it is still working effectively. While there is some resistance to this treatment it remains an important weapon against immature fluke and SCOPS is concerned that many people have mistaken re-infection this winter with treatment failure.

More information can be found at www.scops.org.uk.


NSA Northern Region welcomes a new Chairman and recognises a stalwart of the industry.

The NSA Northern Region AGM on Wednesday evening (13th February) saw Geoff Lawn complete his two years as regional Chairman and hand over the reins to Adam Watson of Brampton, Northumberland. Mr Watson is a keen supporter of sheep genetics and the next generation of producers; he appeared in Farmers Guardian last week, talking about his role as NSA North Sheep 2013 Chairman – read the article here.


Also at the AGM, the T.I. Allinson Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the sheep industry in the North of England went to auctioneer Stuart Bell. His nomination from the North of England Mule Sheep Association said: “Held in high regard as an auctioneer, valuer, advisor, judge and stockman, Stuart has proven his trade by working his way through the industry, gaining the respect of his clients, colleagues, friends and associations and show a dedication few could conceive.” Full the full citation here.


Positive visit to UK by French supermarket.

A group of 10 delegates from supermarket chain Intermarché (the largest supermarket chain in Europe with 1,800 stores) and processor SVA Jean Rozé have spent three days visiting processors, producers and butchers, discussing UK lamb production and new cutting techniques. France remains the largest export market for UK lamb (taking around 60% of our exports) and it is hoped the trip, organised by Eblex, with strengthen this market further.


Sheep producers urged to take up performance recording.

There were firm words from Stuart Annand of Quality Meat Scotland this week when he urged more farmers to take up performance recording. He said: “The opportunity for increasing returns lies inside the farm gate of every flock, regardless of farm type or breed. Whether your motivation is for better replacement ewe lambs or simply heavier store/prime lambs, there is an EBV which, when correctly applied, will hasten your progress towards profitable, sustainable lamb production.” Find out more at www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.


Two university students looking for on-farm placements – can you help?

Craig Massie is at Harper Adams University and looking for a paid work placement on a large-scale sheep and arable farm (preferably lowland) for a minimum of 12 months between July 2013 and September 2014. Craig says: “I’m from a 280ha working farm and have experience of a 900 Texel-cross flock, arable, pig production and some beef. I feel experience of sheep production and arable on a larger scale than what I have on the family farm would be very beneficial.” Craig is happy to consider placements anywhere in the UK and can be contacted at craigmassie@live.co.uk or 07713 132528.


Tomas Richards is studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Aberystwyth University and is looking for a work placement (preferably paid) on a large sheep farm with a focus on breeding and genetics. He is looking for a placement from January to September 2014 anywhere in the UK, but will require accommodation if travelling any distance from his home in north Herefordshire. Tomas has some experience working with sheep and can be contacted at tomas.richards@hotmail.co.uk or07800 832768.


Request for farmers in NSA Northern region to help with university dissertation.

NorthumbriaUniversitystudent Leanne Defty is looking for help with a project on organic versus non-organic farming. She needs both conventional and organic farmers to fill in her 10-minutes questionnaire at www.surveymonkey.com/s/farmingdissertationsurvey to help her investigate why prompts farmers to choose one method of farming other another. Anyone wishing to contact Leanne directly can do so at leanne.defty@northumbria.ac.uk.


NSA EVENTS DIARY(all 2013 NSA events, including next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here)


NSA Cymru/Wales AGM:Monday 18th February, 2pm at Hafod Y Hendre on the Royal Welsh Showground, followed by Prof. E. Wynne Jones (OBE, FRAgS) speaking about ‘How will CAP Reform affect sheep farming in the future? What kind of shepherd will there be in 20 years’ time?’ Open to members and non-members. Clickherefor an agenda.


NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 20th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre.


NSA Scotland AGM and Dinner: Saturday 2nd March atDunblane Hydro, Stirling 4pm for the AGM, 7pm for the Dinner. Tickets (£30+VAT) available from Caroline Orr on 07966 590251 or carolineorr1@hotmail.co.uk.


NSA Welsh Sheep. Tuesday 21st May at Beili Ficer Farm, Llansawel, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 7JT. More information here.


NSA Highland Sheep. Thursday 30th May at Dingwall Mart, Dingwall, Ross-shire, IV15 9TP. More information here.


NSA North Sheep. Wednesday 5th June at Crimple Head Farm, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1QT. More information here.


NSA Sheep South West. Tuesday 11th June at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ. More information here.


NSA Sheep Northern Ireland. Monday 1st July at Ballymena Market,Woodside Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, BT42 4HX. Email Edward Adamson for more information by clicking here


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