THE ANIMAL health agency APHA and levy board AHDB are urging livestock producers across the country to submit lambs with suspected Schmallenberg virus (SBV) for post-mortem examination as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow.
Lambing flocks across the country have experienced higher than normal losses from deformed lambs with the disease so far confirmed in the South West, South East, Wales and the North East. Early calving herds have also experienced calves affected with congenital defects.
When Schmallenberg was first identified in 2011, vets noted that infected animals appeared to gain resistance after contracting the disease, however, vets have expressed concern about levels seen this year. SBV is transmitted by midges which infect sheep, cattle and goats when they bite. Infected cattle sometimes show symptoms of infection, including diarrhoea and fever, but some infected animals show no symptoms at all. If infected in the earlier stages of pregnancy, lambs and calves can be born with severe malformations that can make delivery very difficult, particularly in those with rigidly fixed limbs that may cause damage to the birth canal.
In their appeal, APHA and AHDB noted that the virus can also reduce growth and milk production in infected animals. The first Schmallenberg case in the UK was confirmed in January 2012 and there is currently no vaccine available; any infection present on farm now will have taken place last year and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate issues at the moment.
A spokesperson for the levy board and the agency said, “We have already heard of a number of cases and mainstream lambing and calving is only just starting. However, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) hasn’t received many samples so the true extent of the problem is not understood. Farmers and vets are being urged to be vigilant through the lambing and calving period. It is very important that, if producers encounter lambs or calves with deformities, they contact their vets so post-mortem examination can be carried out to establish whether Schmallenberg is the cause.
“When APHA suspects SBV they will fund the testing for SBV. Test results, whether negative or positive, allow you to confirm or rule out specific disease issues in that animal and potentially in the wider herd/flock, so there is value to the individual farm in investigation.
“At present there is no vaccine available and it is already too late to vaccinate sheep that are due to lamb this spring or cows due to calve. However, there will be vaccine available this year and further details on when will be confirmed soon. Importantly we need to discover the true levels of the virus as this will determine activity later this year, which will seek to inform what action we need to take to protect against SBV going forward.”
Dr Simon Carpenter, head of entomology, at the Pirbright Institute, an international farm animal health research centre in Surrey said, “SBV is transmitted between ruminants by midges at a far higher rate than bluetongue virus and so spreads more quickly through farms. This might also mean that it can be transmitted effectively at lower temperatures and so extend the season during which the virus is a threat.”
Cattle and sheep prices rise
HISTORICALLY high market prices for cattle and sheep are helping to push Wales’ agricultural sector into the black, according to market analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
Welsh Government projections, released as part of its ‘Aggregate agricultural output and income’ and ‘Forecast of farm incomes in Wales’ statistical reports, show that agriculture is now worth almost £1.6 billion to the Welsh economy.
Beef and sheep farming – along with the dairy sector – are by far the largest contributors to this value, with the PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef brands helping to secure millions in sales in the UK and export markets.
According to HCC, strong cattle and sheep prices at market are continuing to help sustain profitability, although the weather has had an impact.
“Market prices for June have continued the trend we’ve seen since the beginning of the year,” said HCC’s Data Analyst Glesni Phillips. “Poor weather in early spring is restricting the number of new season lambs coming on to the market, which has contributed to prices remaining around 10p per kilo higher than last year. Beef cattle prices are also strong, helped by a barbecue boom in the warm month of May.”
However, Glesni noted that average farm incomes were still modest, and that uncertainty over access to vital European markets after Brexit meant that forecasting future price movements was unusually difficult.
“According to Welsh Government figures, average incomes on a beef and sheep enterprise in the Less Favoured Area (LFA – which makes up over 80% of Wales’s agricultural land) are only just over £25,000,” she said. “Given that market prices are unlikely to remain at this level, and that considerable political uncertainty exists over possible levels of exports and imports of red meat, this highlights the need for agricultural businesses to prioritise on-farm efficiency as part of their Brexit preparations.”
TFA calls for Inheritance Tax changes
THE TENANT FARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) has called for a radical change in the operation of Agricultural Property Relief (APR) in its response to the call for evidence issued by the Office for Tax Simplification for its Inheritance Tax review.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “For many rural landlords the taxation framework within which they operate has a major influence over the decisions they make about how they manage their land. The TFA believes that the Government should be using this sensitivity as leverage to achieve wider objectives for the resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture”.
The introduction of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 represented a major deregulation of the agricultural let sector. Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) were ushered in with the intention of improved efficiency of land use, whilst increasing opportunities for both progressing farmers and new entrants within the agricultural sector.
“Over two decades on and the TFA believes that neither of these objectives have been attained. Whilst we saw an increase in the amount of let land through the early years of the new legislation this has, by and large, tailed off. However, the biggest failing has been the perpetuation of short lengths of term leading to inefficiency. Short term tenancies are holding back progression, investment and sustainable land use. FBTs have been too short for too long and now is the time for that to change,” said Mr Dunn.
A big advantage to the taxpaying landlord is the ability to have 100% APR from Inheritance Tax for the agricultural value of their holdings let after the 01 September 1995. However, the TFA questions whether this relief should be so widely available. In circumstances where landlords choose to let for short lengths of term, there is little in the national interest to be gained from providing landlords with such a generous tax advantage.
“There needs to be a radical reform of the Inheritance Tax framework for agricultural land as it applies to landlords. Allowing for exemptions for specialist cropping lets on a rotational basis, APR should be abolished except in relation to land let for 10 years or more without a landlord’s break clause,” said Mr Dunn.
“Using changes in APR to improve the average length of term on FBTs will impact positively on the productivity, resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture, which is now responsible for farming around a third of the agricultural area of the country,” said Mr Dunn
Royal Welsh to be blooming great
THE ROYAL WELSH AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY has announced it will be holding ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’ competition during the main show on July 23-26.
Have you got a wedding coming up? This would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to arrange wedding flowers and win a wedding bouquet designed and arranged by renowned, award winning florist, Jonathan Lloyd-Davies.
Designed and sponsored by Johnathan of Johnathan’s Flowers, the competition, taking place in the Horticulture Marquee on the Tuesday (Jul 24) of the show, is open to anyone who has not previously competed in the floral art section of the Royal Welsh Show or Winter Fair, and who is interested in learning how to arrange flowers for an upcoming wedding.
Competitors do not need any previous experience (No NAFAS members), there will be no entry fee and all materials will be provided. But hurry, entries must be made in advance as spaces are limited.
The competition will follow the lines of the popular ‘Great British Bake Off’ programme, with contestants, in this instance, first taught to delicately arrange wedding style button holes, with the successful competitors proceeding to the next round to create a beautiful bridal bouquet under Johnathan’s watchful eye.
Jonathan established his business, Jonathan’s Flowers (www.jonathansflowers.co.uk), back in 1993 and has since gone on to provide an inspirational and personal florist service to South Wales and beyond. Specialising in floral designs to weddings and corporate clients, Johnathan has an impressive list of happy clients, including Catherine Zeta Jones, Bonnie Tyler, leading hotels in both Cardiff and Swansea, Glorious Goodwood, Royal Ascot and Wentworth Golf Club, to name just a few.
This exciting competition is just one of the many floral extravaganzas you will find in the Horticulture Marquee at the Royal Welsh Show. Packed full of fruits, vegetables, floral art displays, cut flowers, pot plants, window boxes and planters, a children’s decorated wheelbarrow competition, demonstrations, gardening question time, and the Welsh National Honey Show, amongst other delights… it really is worth a visit!
For more details and entry forms for ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’, please contact: 01982 554409 / email@example.com
The pinnacle event in the British agricultural calendar, the Royal Welsh Show, will be held on July 23 – 26 at the showground in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.
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