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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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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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Plaid calls for extension of Rural Fuel Duty Relief to aid Carmarthenshire drivers

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PLAID CYMRU politicians have urged the UK Government to extend the Rural Fuel Duty Relief scheme to rural areas of Wales to help mitigate pressures on Carmarthenshire commuters.  

Currently, Wales is the most car-dependent nation in the UK due to poor public transport investment, with areas of rural Wales, including Carmarthenshire particularly volatile to the rocketing price of fuel, which have already seen UK petrol prices surging to over 170p per litre in many areas. 

With costs escalating, Cefin Campbell MS, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales has supported calls short term measures must include extending the rural fuel duty relief scheme to Wales, to alleviate some of the pressure on households.  

Currently, the Rural Fuel Duty Relief allows retailers to claim back up to 5p per litre duty relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, and pass on the savings to customers, covering 17 areas of England and Scotland, including parts of the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Northumberland, Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire. No areas of Wales are currently eligible for the scheme. 

Earlier this week, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP challenged the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng MP to extend the scheme to Wales. Responding, Mr Kwarteng said that it was not his decision to take but that he would speak to Government colleagues. 

Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales said: 

“Starved of public transport investment, Carmarthenshire is amongst one of the most car dependent areas in the UK, and residents are already feeling the pinch at the pump from surging fuel prices.  

In Carmarthenshire alone, around 15% of households already live in fuel poverty, and the surge in cost of living, together with energy and fuels costs is disproportionately affecting residents. 

With fuel prices ballooning, I have no doubt the UK Government should look to consider short-term measures, such as extending the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme – already in place in many rural regions of Scotland and England – to ensure at least some level of support to rural residents at the challenging time.”  

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, added: 

“Ending our dependence on Russian fossil fuels is crucial to punish Putin for his illegal attacks on a peaceful neighbour. But with nearly half of Welsh SMEs located in rural areas and Wales the most car-dependent nation in the UK for commuting, we urgently need tailored support to provide relief from rising off-grid energy bills and fuel prices. 

“The cost-of-living crisis is already hitting our communities hard. It is crucial that the UK Government takes every possible step to mitigate the impact on those most exposed to rising prices.” 

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