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Farming

Johnson announces end to lamb export ban ‘soon’

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WELSH farming industry bodies have welcomed the prospect of Welsh Lamb exports to the US being lifted soon.
The Prime Minister claimed the ban would end after meeting with President Biden in Washington last week.
The potential market for PGI Welsh Lamb in the USA has been estimated to be worth as much as £20million a year within five years of the export restrictions being removed.

LIFTING THE BAN

The ban on British lamb to the USA has been in place since 1996 following an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The ban was extended in some countries to sheepmeat because a related sheep disease (scrapie) belongs to the same family of diseases.

HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells said, “Achieving market access for lamb to the USA has been a long road, and it looks as if we’re nearly at the end of the journey.

“The ban, brought in back in 1996, has not been necessary or justifiable for many years. But it’s taken a long effort and much technical work to overcome the various administrative hurdles.

“There is a promising market for high-quality Welsh Lamb in the USA, particularly in the hotel and restaurant trade on the east coast.

“Research has shown that the trade could be worth £20million a year for the sector if we can achieve access and work on developing the market.

“We look forward to hearing the details behind the announcement and are ready to grasp the opportunity should it arise.”

NEWS A BOOST FOR WELSH AGRICULTURE

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz MS said: “Farmers across Wales will welcome the news that the US has lifted the ban on the imports of British lamb.
“It’s now imperative that both the UK and Welsh Governments work in tandem to promote the benefits of Welsh lamb so that its market potential can be fulfilled.”

NFU Cymru has welcomed reports that positive progress is being made on lifting a long-standing ban
NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman Wyn Evans said: “After being shut out of the US market for over 30 years, today’s reports that Welsh sheep farmers may soon be able to access this potentially lucrative marketplace are welcome news for the sector.

“We certainly want to see this ban lifted so that trade can resume as soon as possible.

“Now this vital trade avenue appears to be a step closer to opening, it is crucial the UK Government and the authorities work alongside the whole supply chain so that we are in a position to supply product into the US as soon as the ban is lifted.

“We now wait with interest to hear more news from the US Secretary of State for Agriculture to confirm the reports that we have received following the Prime Minister’s comments.”

VITAL TO OPEN MORE EXPORT OPPORTUNITIES

The Farmers’ Union of Wales also welcomed the news.
The FUW has long discussed the prospect of lifting the unjustified ban with the USDA in various meetings over the past decade.

Speaking from his Carmarthenshire sheep farm, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Now more than ever, we need to explore other export markets while also protecting our long-established markets in Europe.
“The US market is one we are keen to develop much stronger relationships with and the news that this ban could soon be lifted is most welcome news for our sheep industry.”
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker commented: “We are delighted about the announcement that the ban is to be lifted – the UK sheep industry has been waiting for this for many years.
“The sheep industry in the UK has clear potential to grow further, but any expansion must be market and demand-led.

“The UK is the third-largest exporter of sheepmeat globally, telling us that we are good at producing sheepmeat and that our supply chains are efficient and able to deliver.
“This creates another opportunity for our industry to maximise trade opportunities, and we have always seen the US as being a potentially significant market.

“After the domestic market, the EU is still our largest export market and is on our doorstep. However, access is more difficult than it was when we were part of the EU. It’s essential to maintain EU access but it is also important to work on any market that gives us future potential.”

Mr Stocker highlighted other benefits: “We shouldn’t expect to see any sudden surge in volumes going to the US, but we do know there is strong demand for UK sheep genetics – semen and embryos. Many British sheep breeds are in the US but are numerically too small to have a strong gene pool, so genetics demand is strong.
“In addition, with sheepmeat consumption being very low in the US we believe we can help stimulate interest in lamb and quality mutton through exporting high quality British sheepmeat that reinspires interest in the product and helps the US sheep industry to build further.”

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Farming

Carmarthenshire farmer admits causing slurry pollution

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Coed Moelon Farm slurry pollution

A CARMARTHENSHIRE farmer has admitted failing to comply with an order to improve his slurry storage and causing slurry pollution in two nearby rivers during a hearing at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court.

Noel Richards, a farmer responsible for the running of Coedmoelon and Rhydolau farms, pleaded guilty to all three offences at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, April 22.

He was ordered to pay £2,153 in fines, a further £2,344 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £190.

Matthew Lowe, Environment Team Leader, of Natural Resource Wales, said: “Mr Richards self-reported one of the slurry incidents to NRW, which was the most appropriate and responsible thing to do to minimise the impact of the pollution on our land and waterways.

“However I must stress that both incidents could have been prevented had Mr Richards taken the required steps to adhere to regulations around the safe storage of slurry.

“We work closely and positively with farmers to help them comply with regulations and minimise the risks of causing agricultural pollution. Where farmers ignore our requests and put people, nature and our natural resources at risk, we will prosecute.”

Rhydolau Farm slurry pollution

In February 2018 Mr Richards was issued with a notice to carry out required compliance works to a slurry lagoon at Coed Moelon Farm to ensure it adheres to the required standards of the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage and Slurry) (Wales) Regulations 2010.  

The notice has not been complied with to date.

On 22 September 2020, NRW received a report of slurry pollution in the stream running into the Afon Dulais.  

An Environment Officer attended the site and witnessed the stream discoloured along with an agricultural odour. The officer traced the pollution back to a dirty water tank at Rhydolau Farm. 

Mr Richards was cooperative and the pollution was contained as soon as the source was identified.

On 3 December 2020, NRW received a call from Mr Richards self-reporting a pollution incident where slurry had entered a tributary of the Afon Gwendraeth Fawr. 

Rhydolau Farm slurry pollution

Mr Richards explained that they had spread slurry the week before, but the recent rainfall had washed the slurry into the watercourse. An Environment Officer attended the site and found the stream discoloured with large amounts of foam. 

The officer traced the pollution back to a field belonging to Coed Moelon Farm that had been spread with slurry.

Matthew Lowe added: “I urge farmers and contractors to be vigilant to help prevent polluting our waterways. Carry out regular checks on slurry levels and storage infrastructure. Only spread slurry when conditions are right, for example, not spreading at times when rain is forecast over the next 24 hours, when the ground is saturated or when the ground is frozen hard.

“We recognise that sometimes things do go wrong, but we urge farmers or contractors who know they have caused pollution, to report it to NRW immediately by calling 0300 065 3000. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can work with them to try and reduce the impact on the environment.”

To report a pollution incident call NRW’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0300 065 3000.

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Farmers urged to rethink hedge trimming policies to benefit nature and livestock

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WELSH farmers have been assured that measures that protect and increase biodiversity on their farms can be easily integrated and have benefits for their livestock.

Farms already have valuable assets in their hedges and trees. By trimming hedges less often and less severely, and planting trees in the right place, habitat for wildlife will not only be improved, but will also provide shelter and shade for cattle and sheep, says Geraint Jones, Technical Forestry Officer at Farming Connect.

“There are many changes that can be accommodated on your farms that will work for the benefit of your businesses,’’ he told farmers listening in to a recent Farming Connect biodiversity webinar.

“Farmers need to decide what the real advantages and disadvantages of different measures are, from an environmental and economic perspective, and implement a programme of work to achieve those objectives.’’

This won’t mean wholescale changes in how land is farmed in Wales, Mr Jones suggested. However, adopting techniques and options that enable agricultural practices to work hand in hand with nature will contribute to improving the environmental and economic performance of the farm business, he added.

“Allowing hedgerows and shelterbelts to increase in volume will improve structure, and could help towards a suggested target of a 10% biodiversity net gain,’’ said Mr Jones.

He urged farmers to “have that conversation’’ with their hedge-trimming contractors.

“There is often no conversation between farmers and their hedge-cutting contractors, and the farmers are happy to let the contractors take the lead on a cutting regime that is replicated year to year.

“However in future, with clear emphasis on improving biodiversity, they need to identify objectives, plan the change and relay that in a conversation with their contractors.’’

The webinar saw examples of what benefits could be gained, in a series of images from three Farming Connect demonstration sites. The majority of hedgerows surveyed were wide, tall and provided excellent wildlife habitat, as well as shelter for livestock during inclement weather, and shade in hot temperatures.

The farms are commercial dairy or beef and sheep farms, with mostly agriculturally improved grassland and arable land. However, each farm has several features that are havens for wildlife, including woodlands, watercourses and extensive networks of hedges.

Farming Connect had commissioned the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Cymru (FWAG Cymru) to carry out environmental audits on all three farms – Graig Olway at Usk, Mountjoy near Haverfordwest, and Pentre near Ruthin.

FWAG Cymru’s director Glenda Thomas, a speaker at the webinar, said a feature on all three were wide hedges, which were “really impressive habitats’’, with songbirds, butterflies, bees and a host of other insects and flowering plants within and alongside them.

“Other excellent habitats on all three farms were a variety of broadleaved woodlands ranging in size from tiny copses to substantial areas, the largest over 3.5 hectares in size,’’ she said.

Water features, including major rivers, streams, ditches and ponds, were prominent on each farm. These had an abundance of aquatic life, with a variety of flowering plants and trees also growing along the banks.

At Pentre, implementing a system of rotational grazing through its work as a demonstration site had resulted in an unexpected benefit to hedges.

“Now that the fields are sub-divided into paddocks and the sheep are not in entire fields for longer periods, the hedges are having a chance to grow,’’ said Dr Thomas.

Sheep and cattle, she said, were both excellent management tools for some habitats, with a noticeable difference in the hedge densities nearer ground level when cattle only grazed the land.

“Cattle are much appreciated in terms of habitat management, with their grazing method valuable in the control of coarser vegetation, so allowing more delicate plants to thrive,’’ she said.

Hedges alongside the fields used to grow arable and fodder crops also flourished on the farms surveyed, and flora thrived within the hedge banks, due to the absence of grazing pressure during the growing season.

Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales, and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

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Farming

New lambs at high risk of dog attacks over Easter holiday

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FROM its claims figures, NFU Mutual estimates that across the UK farm animals worth £1.52m were killed or injured by out-of-control dogs in 2021.

The leading rural insurer is worried that grown-up ‘pandemic puppies’ could cause even greater carnage this Easter if let off-lead in the countryside. Research conducted by NFU Mutual shows 73% of dog owners (up from 64% last year) now allow their pets to roam off-lead in the countryside – despite 49% admitting their dog doesn’t always come back when called.

Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “With Easter falling late this year, most lambs have been born and are highly vulnerable to dog attacks – so we’re asking owners to keep their pets on the lead whenever livestock could be nearby.

“With many people planning an Easter trip to the countryside with dogs which aren’t used to being around sheep, we’re worried there could be a surge in attacks.

“As the weather improves for the Bank Holiday, we understand people want to make the most of the countryside, however it’s crucial that this is done responsibly. While harmless at home, gentle family pets can quickly turn to their natural instincts out in the fields, leaving a trail of horrific injuries to sheep and new-born lambs.

“Owners need to be aware that it’s not just large dogs that attack sheep – even small dogs can cause deaths by chasing sheep round fields until they die from stress, or separate new-born lambs from their mothers.”

NFU Mutual Easter countryside dog walking advice:

  • Always keep dogs on the lead when walking in rural areas where livestock are kept – but let go of the lead if chased by cattle
  • Recognise that even small dogs can cause the distress, injury and death of farm animals
  • Report attacks by dogs to the police or local farmers
  • Don’t let dogs loose unsupervised in gardens near livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs that escape and attack sheep grazing nearby
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