NSA Members' Update 12th April

By Suffolk Sheep Society 16th April, 2013


MINISTERS IN ALL REGIONS SHOW THEIR CONCERN FOR SNOW-HIT FARMERS:With the aftermath of the snowy weather fully showing itself this week – in terms of stock losses, damage caused and the set-back to grass – Ministers in England, Wales and Scotland were all working hard to show their concern for farmers, although none of them have yet taken the step of matching Northern Ireland in carrying the cost of Fallen Stock removal and offering hardship payments.

  • David Heath and John GeldardENGLAND:Within less than 24 hours of an invitation from NSA to visit Cumbria, Secretary for State David Heath (pictured left) joined NSA Chairman John Geldard (pictured right) and representatives of the NFU yesterday (10th April) on a farm that had been badly hit by the snow and suffered serious losses. John proposed that Mr Heath made collections by the National Fallen Stock Company free of charge to all farmers for three months, and NSA sent a more detailed version of the proposal to Mr Heath’s office the same day. The letter argued that this solution would involve less administration than individual farmers contacting Defra for funding, would provide proportional support to farmers (as those with the most losses would receive the biggest benefit), and would support farmers that missed the snow but still suffered extreme weather (as well as fluke and SBV). NSA also urged Mr Heath to make a statement saying farmers faced with a RPA inspection or challenged by Trading Standards would be dealt with in a pragmatic and supportive way and that the authorities would take into consideration the seriousness of the situation. NSA has yet to hear back from Mr Heath.
  • WALES: Possibly reacting to newspaper reports branding him as ‘arrogant and out of touch’, Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Alun Davies called an emergency telephone conference with farming organisations today (12th April). Mr Davies acknowledged the efforts being made by feed companies to delay payments and extend credit, and said he was meeting with banks next week to have a similar conversation. However, NSA and others involved in the tele-conference emphasised the seriousness of the situation, saying there was no shortage of farm businesses in a precarious financial state, especially given the cost of disposing of Fallen Stock. Mr Davies was told many farmers still did not know the extent of losses and there were concerns about the cost of disposal and also the capacity of collection contractors and rendering plants to deal with such high volumes. Mr Davies was urged to follow up the case for EU hardship support, and also make his officials aware of the extreme conditions and the need for understanding and leniency in RPA inspections, audits, and welfare or environmental reports.
  • SCOTLAND: Niall McQuiston of NSA Scotland joined Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead on a farm visit to Dumfries and Galloway earlier this week, to discuss ongoing weather issues. Scottish Government had already pledged £500,000 to help farmers with Fallen Stock bills and Mr Lochhead said, given the importance of keeping farms viable, he would assess want additional funding might be needed once the full extent of the losses was known.

NSA HOSTS DEFRA RDPE LEAD ON A SHEEP FARMING TOUR: On Tuesday (9th April) John Geldard, NSA Chairman, and Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, accompanied Robin Mortimer, Defra’s lead on the RDP programme in England, on a tour of sheep farming-related sites in Cumbria. Phil reports: “In terms of RDP budgets (Pillar Two), we emphasised the importance of CAP payments (Pillar One) to the viability of livestock farms and the threat of modulation in taking money away from those direct payments in favour of RDP. We also had some useful discussions about the role of CAP in influencing and preparing farming for what could be a tougher funding environment in years to come. Part of our visit included meeting key people at Newton Rigg College, an incredible resource for farming and youngsters in the North of England, and indeed the UK, in its role as the new National Upland Resource Centre. Robin also showed great interest and empathy in the impact of the recent snows and stock losses, and as a result of this and NSA lobbying this resulted in David Heath making an emergency visit to the region some 48 hours later.” (See report above)

THREATS TO TRANSPORT JOURNEY TIME: Interpretation of transport rules by EU officials is threatening the UK’s well established system of sheep marketing through livestock markets. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, and Hamish Waugh, NSA Scotland Committee Member and transport expert, attended a Defra meeting in Carlisle on Wednesday (10th April) to explore ways of convincing officials that time spent in market should not be counted as part of a journey and that the departure time of a journey should start when animals leave the mart. Including the time spent in market as part of the travelling time of the same journey would push many, if not most, of our journeys well beyond the time limits, and of course then there is the administration issue of the timing and length of the journey from the farm to the market being included and being different for groups of stock that make up a load. Fortunately this is an area where Defra is working hard with industry to try to find practical solutions – the problem is that, while solutions are not difficult to find, convincing EU officials should not be underestimated. As always, NSA will keep members informed of progress.

TIGHTENING OF MOVEMENT RULES IN NORTHERN IRELAND: NSA members in Northern Ireland should be aware that as of 1st June all bought-in sheep moved to a market must be in the flock keepers’ record book. Until now if a farmer in Northern Ireland moved sheep to another farmer and forgot to send the Department of Agriculture a movement notification, and then moved them to market, the department would generate an ‘inferred movement’ and the sale could go ahead. As this is seen as a break in traceability it will not be allowed after 1st June 2013

MOREDUN LOOKING AT ADDITIONAL HELP FOR COPING WITH FLUKE: George Milne, NSA Scotland’s Regional Development Office, was with the Moredun Institute yesterday (11th April) talking specifically about fluke, the explosion in cases last year and the massive challenge facing sheep and cattle farmers. Action was agreed to look at ways to increase attention in this area, in order to increase understanding of the disease and how to live with in on UK farms.

TIPS FOR COPING WITH GRASS SHORTAGES: Dr John Vipond from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC, formerly SAC) has provided these practical tips for coping with severe grass shortages:-

  • Make it easy for sheep to feed, by bulking out silage with straw or presenting silage on the ground instead of in feeders. Long-chop silage is particularly difficult for sheep to pull from a bale.
  • Consider adding soya (at least 200g/ewe/day) to ewe rations to provide additional protein.
  • Where grass has begun to grow, scatter turnips or swedes on the field to complement the grass and provide ewes with additional energy.
  • Use a magnesium supplement to reduce the risk of magnesium imbalance and staggers.
  • To stop fluke setting stock back further still, fence off known fluke-affected areas, provide water troughs to discourage stock from drinking from wet areas where mud snails live, and discuss a flukicide programme with your vet.
  • Consider creep feeding lambs now, as it is easier to get them off to a good start than have to bulk up light lambs later in the year.

Looking forward to the period when the grass does eventually grow, Dr Vipond urges farmers to think hard about how best to utilise it properly. He believes it works well to rotate larger groups of sheep around several fields and leave them bare when they move on. This also improves the quality of the sward which, later in the season, can be used to finish more lambs.

BE EXTRA-VIGILANT FOR SIGNS OF MASTITIS: The combination of limited feed supplies, muddy fields and cold winds has led Eblex to warn all sheep farmers to be on the look-up for acute mastitis in their ewes, which can rapidly progress to death in some animals. Fiona Lovatt, veterinary consultant, provides these tips for dealing with mastitis cases:-

  • House the ewe, preferably in an individual pen, so her and her lambs can be given the care and supplementary feeding required. Plenty of clean water is important for the ewe, who many need to be tempted to eat.
  • Seek veterinary advice. They will usually recommend an injectable antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drug. The infection can be within the milk, the udder tissue or the inflammatory cells, so the antibiotic ideally needs to reach each of these locations and remain at high enough levels to achieve a cure. Some effective drugs can only be given by vets,

In addition to mastitis be aware of teat lesions caused by hungry lambs, which is a particular problem when the ewe’s milk yield is dropping as the lambs’ demand is increasing. Eblex says to consider creep feeding lambs to reduce the pressure on ewes, depending on your farm’s individual system and when lambs are being marketed.

FUNDRAISING FOR FARMING CHARITIES: The terrible impact of the snow on farming businesses has seen a massive increase in calls to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and other farming charities. To access help from these charities, or to make a donation to aid their work, please visit the Farming Help website. Alternatively, staff from the Soil Association are seeking sponsorship ahead of their challenge on 20th April to complete a 10km obstacle race designed by the British Armed Forces, to raise money for RABI. Make a donation via the Soil Association’s Just Giving website.

INCREASE IN WELSH SHEEP FLOCK DISGUISES DROP IN BREEDING FEMALES: The December 2012 Welsh census figures (released earlier this week) show a 3% increase in the Welsh flock, but this is due to a 27% increase in lambs on farm – lambs that, in better weather conditions, would usually have been finished and sold well before the New Year. The figures show only 216,000 ewe lambs were mated in the autumn (a 10% drop) but 670,000 ewe lambs were earmarked for future breeding (up 2%). The total number of breeding females was down 2% to 3.9m, the first time the Welsh breeding flock has fallen in three years. The Welsh suckler beef herd also witnessed a decline – down 3% to 214,000 females.

The decline in the breeding flock coupled with high losses on some farms as a result of the snow are bound to result in suggestions there will be less lamb available later this year. But, as described in last week’s NSA Weekly Email Update, we think it would be irresponsible to suggest any shortages at this stage, especially as the UK’s position as an exporting nation means we have lamb available to cater for the domestic market, depending on demand at home and prices going forward. John Richards, HCC Industry and Market Information Officer, echoes this thought: “It must be remembered there are four million breeding ewes in Wales and around 14 million in the UK as a whole, so consumers should not be unduly worried, as they should still be able to find Welsh Lamb in the shops without too many problems during the year.”

HUGE SUCCESS OF ‘WOOL HOUSE’ REVEALED: More than 17,000 people passed through the doors of ‘Wool House’ in the 12 days that Campaign for Wool’s exhibition ran in Somerset House, Central London, in March. The event was organised to showcase interiors and display the many things wool can be used for in the home other than just carpets, ultimately leading to an increase in the value of the wool NSA members produce. NSA supported the exhibition by having live sheep in the courtyard of Somerset House for three days, which no doubt added to the popularity and made the essential link between the goods on display and the creatures that provide us with the raw material. Campaign for Wool also reports that the exhibition ‘went global’ on Facebook and Twitter, with more than four million references on social media. Major features were published in newspapers and a Country Living photo shoot, covering the exhibition as a whole and featuring some of the 26 practical workshops with knitters, spinners and weavers, and the 100+ people involved in leading activities during the craft weekend.

PROJECT TO LOOK AT LAND MANAGEMENT OPTIONS FOR MOORLAND BOG AREAS: The Moorland Association has welcome a five-year Defra project to research blanket bog areas, their management and future stewardship of moorland and farming. The programme will be led by York University, in collaboration with the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, with the aim of collecting data to refine future land management techniques.


  • 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.
  • Sheep Breeders Round Table:Friday 1st - Sunday 3rd November at Eastwood Hall, Nottingham. More information available later in the year.
  • Details of next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here.


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