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Farming

Bird flu restrictions end

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Restrictions end: Keepers urged to maintain vigilance

THE CABINET Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths has announced the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which expired on April 30, will not be replaced.

The Cabinet Secretary has taken this decision based on an updated veterinary risk assessment conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). However, the temporary suspension on gatherings of some species of birds will remain as additional evidence is considered.

The Cabinet Secretary said: “Last December I declared the whole of Wales an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 outbreaks being reported across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This was a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of poultry and other captive birds being infected by wild birds.

“We have been closely monitoring this situation and APHA has been preparing updated outbreak risk assessments.

The most recent evidence-based veterinary risk assessment concluded there remains a Low – Medium risk of resident wild waterfowl being infected with H5N8. Meanwhile, the exposure assessment risk for poultry farms is Low, but heightened, and will depend on the biosecurity measures on each farm. This level is consistent with November 2016, when disease was present across Europe in sporadic outbreaks and occasional wild bird findings were being reported.

“Therefore, I am pleased to announce, following the expiry of the current Avian Influenza Prevention Zone on 30 April, this will not be replaced. Whilst I am sure this is welcome news it is important to remember avian influenza remains a constant and real threat to our poultry and other captive birds.”

The Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, added: “I would like to stress the need for all keepers of poultry and other domestic captive birds to remain alert for signs of the disease and to contact their private veterinarians if they have any concerns. If anyone suspects disease they should contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately.

“It is essential all keepers maintain effective biosecurity practices, such as considering and updating self-assessment forms, cleansing and disinfecting all clothing, equipment and vehicles (using approved disinfectants) and implementing effective pest control measures to minimise the opportunities of contact between their birds and wild birds and wild life.

“We can all play a part in supporting the ongoing surveillance by reporting any findings of dead wild birds to the GB helpline on 03459 335577. In particular, any wild ducks, wild geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey and where more than five birds of any species are found dead in the same location. We must also ensure we all comply and respect the biosecurity measures put in place by poultry or other captive bird keepers.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to remind all poultry keepers with 50 birds or more they must register their flocks on the Poultry Register and strongly encourage all poultry keepers, including those with fewer than 50 birds, to register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

“If poultry or other captive birds are being let outside after a prolonged period of being housed I would recommend keepers consult their private veterinarian on the health impacts.”

Meanwhile the UK Government’s last remaining bird flu control measures in England – including the ban on poultry gatherings – will be lifted on Monday, May 15, Defra’s Chief Vet announced on Friday (April 28).

With the lifting of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), bird keepers will no longer be required by law to follow specific disease prevention measures, intended to reduce the risk of highlight pathogenic H5N8 bird flu passing from wild birds to domestic flocks. However, Defra officials said keepers should continue to follow industry standard best practice on biosecurity, including minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy and feeding birds indoors.

A ban on gatherings featuring at-risk bird species, including waterfowl and poultry has been in place since December, when migrating wild birds brought a spate of H5N8 cases to Western Europe. The outbreaks had a devastating effect on the poultry industry in South West France, where birds in three departments had to be culled to prevent further spread of the disease after it was transferred from farm-to-farm. The ban will be lifted in England on May 15, meaning bird gatherings can then resume, subject to some additional identity and health checks and biosecurity measures.

According to the latest risk assessment from Defra’s advisors, the overall risk of another H5N8 outbreak in the UK has fallen from ’medium’ to ‘low’, comparable with risk levels in November 2016, and should continue to fall in warmer, drier spring weather conditions.

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Farming

Glyphosate license renewed for five years

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Glyphosate renewal: NFU welcomes EU approval

18 countries have backed the renewal of glyphosate for five years, with nine voting against and one abstaining.

At least 16 votes were required to renew glyphosate’s license.

A complete ban would have meant a competitive disadvantage for European farmers compared to other countries for example South America who are still allowed to use it.

The EU’s Health and Food Safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tweeted: “Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making.”

The European Commission, which tabled the extension, said in a statement: “The proposal voted today enjoys the broadest possible support by the Member States while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment in line with EU legislation. The Commission will not adopt the decision before the current authorization expires on 15 December…”

The controversial weed killer has been under the spotlight in the EU since June 2016, when its previous 15-year license expired and an 18-month extension was granted.

The licence extension has been the source of much controversy with EU states divided on whether the chemical is safe for use after the WHO’s cancer agency concluded it probably causes cancer.

Welcoming the decision Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the farmers across the country who have lobbied their MEPs and invited them out on to farm to see first-hand the benefits glyphosate brings, and those who have made the case for glyphosate’s reauthorisation on social media. I am convinced their efforts have helped us reach this positive outcome.

“It is good news that farmers and growers will be able to continue using glyphosate for another five years. However, the fact remains that there is absolutely no regulatory reason why it should not have been re-authorised for 15 years, as was originally proposed.

“Today’s decision will be welcomed by farmers who have watched with growing concern as what should have been a straightforward decision has become increasingly political.”

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “The scaremongering and indecision over this product had left farmers and growers fearing they were staring over a cliff edge, so this will be greeted with enormous relief.”

Miss McIntyre, member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said: “It should never have taken this long to renew the licence and it should have been renewed for a full 15 years but the last minute reprieve and the licence for five years is welcome.

“For a zero Improvement in public health and safety, we would have been worsening food security, soil quality, biodiversity and climate change.”

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, commented: “This is a toxic decision. The Commission are ignoring huge opposition from civil society; the almost one and a half million EU citizens who have signed a petition against glyphosate and the European Parliament who recently voted for a five-year phase out.”

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Farming

NFU Cymru wants a Welsh Xmas

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World class produce: Welsh farmers produce the best

MORE than half (58%) of Welsh consumers did not know if any of the items of their Christmas dinner last year were produced in Wales, according to a new survey commissioned by NFU Cymru.

The findings of the survey, conducted by YouGov, show that only 18% of Welsh consumers had Welsh turkey for Christmas dinner in 2016, while only 29% ate Welsh potatoes.

The survey did, however, show that shoppers recognise the hallmarks of Welsh produce. The findings show that consumers associate Welsh produce with quality (78%), high production standards (66%), high environmental standards (59%) and good value for money (53%).

In a bid to encourage more shoppers to buy more Welsh during the festive period this year, NFU Cymru has launched a new ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ campaign at this year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair, highlighting the role that Welsh farmers and growers play in producing the ingredients of a traditional Christmas dinner. The initiative aims to underline that it is possible to source the staple items of a traditional Christmas meal here in Wales, while also encouraging the public to support the Welsh food and farming sector by buying Welsh produce for their Christmas dinner this year.

The campaign features a video of a delicious Welsh Christmas feast and shows some of the producers across Wales who are responsible for producing the ingredients. The video includes turkeys reared in Meirionnydd, potatoes from Pembrokeshire, Brussel sprouts grown in Monmouthshire and pigs in blankets produced in Clwyd. The short film also highlights that PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef are also enjoyed in homes throughout Wales during the festive season as an alternative to traditional Christmas fayre.

NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “Food and drink play an important role in bringing people together during the festive season and Welsh farmers are proud to play their part by producing world-class produce for your Christmas dinner. This is a potentially prosperous period for the food and drink industry here in Wales, but it’s clear from the findings of our survey work this is an opportunity that isn’t being fully capitalised on. There’s a role for all of us in raising the profile of Welsh produce to shoppers in the lead up to the festive period and encouraging more people to prioritise Welsh food and drink when it comes to sourcing the ingredients for their festive meal.

“The Royal Welsh Winter Fair is home to some of the best food and drink producers that Wales has to offer, so the event provides the perfect opportunity for us to launch our ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ campaign to help drive a rise in the number of people sourcing Welsh for their meals over the festive period.

“Our campaign highlights that consumers do not need to look further afield to construct their festive feast – all of the ingredients are available right on their doorstep in Wales. We are proud that so many consumers associate Welsh produce with quality, good value for money and high production standards. We hope that by underlining the link between producers in Wales and the food they produce, more people will prioritise Welsh this Christmas and support our hardworking Welsh farmers and growers in the process.

“The ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ video underlines how easy it is to source the ingredients for a wholesome, delicious festive feast that’s grown and reared here in Wales. I hope this video inspires more people to have a Welsh Christmas in 2017.”

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Farming

Welsh farmers flock to sheep conference

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Welsh farmers: ​A large Welsh contingent attended the recent sheep industry summit in Nottingham

A ​LARGE contingent of Welsh farmers travelled to Nottingham last week to attend one of the most important events in the calendar of the UK sheep industry – the bi-annual Sheep Breeders’ Round Table.

Over 200 delegates in total heard from international experts in genetics, farming and marketing. Key speakers included Icelandic sheep industry consultants Eyjólfur Ingvi Bjarnason and Eyþór Einarsson, and Emma Eyþórsdóttir, Associate Professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland.

The long anticipated preliminary results of the RamCompare project were announced in the Friday session which sparked much discussion. Phase 2 of the project has commenced with further results to be announced in May.

Past Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Scholar Huw Williams of Talley in Carmarthenshire presented his work on the use of EID Tracking and DNA Shepherding for identifying parentage in flocks in Australia and New Zealand. Also, sheep geneticist Janet Roden outlined the ways that performance recording and genetic improvement could enhance the Welsh hill flock.

Sheep-breeder Aled Huw Roberts, from Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in north Powys, won a scholarship from HCC to attend the Round Table event. He said​:​ “I immensely enjoyed all the presentations and specifically the discussion after each. The underlying messages were to improve on-farm efficiency through having a clear focus on the market and quality of the products we are selling.”

HCC Industry Development Officer Gwawr Parry added​:​ “The theme of this year’s conference was ‘thinking positively’, so it was great to see so many make the trip from Wales to contribute to constructive debates on how the industry can take on the challenges of the future.”

The Sheep Breeders Roundtable was organised by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and supported by HCC, Quality Meat Scotland, the National Sheep Association and Scotland’s Rural College.

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