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Farming

Christmas comes early for Brian

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Winners: Ffermio presenter Alun Elidyr (left) with Mrs Thomas and Llion Roberts from Ifor Williams Trailers

Winners: Ffermio presenter Alun Elidyr (left) with Mrs Thomas and Llion Roberts from Ifor Williams Trailers

A SEMI-RETIRED farmer whose ill-health means he now watches more TV is celebrating after winning a major prize. 73-year-old Brian Thomas is now the proud owner of a new trailer worth over £2,000 after entering a competition on the popular S4C programme Ffermio. Every year the programme runs the competition in partnership with Ifor Williams Trailers, Europe’s biggest trailer manufacturers, and the number of entries has increased over the years.

Viewers are asked to answer questions over a seven-week period and then, using the initial letters, give a seven-letter word. Brian, of Blaengilfach Uchaf, Cilrhedyn, Llanfyrnach, near Crymych in Pembrokeshire, has come up with the correct answers every year but until now has not been lucky enough to win. He has won this year’s second prize, an LM85G model, eight-feet long and with dropsides, a headboard and tailboard, which is worth £1,970 plus VAT.

Blaengilfach Uchaf is a 200-acre holding on which Brian, who also worked as an agricultural contractor, keeps store cattle and sheep. He is one of five siblings, four of whom farmed in the area. He is helped on the farm by his wife Mary and son-in-law Richard Davies, and over the past three years his deteriorating health has restricted his mobility.

“I now have more time to watch TV and read, and so I do enter more competitions,” he said. His only other success came when he won £500 in a competition on the S4C programme Rasus. There are already two Ifor Williams trailers at Blaengilfach Uchaf but the new model will prove very useful for different jobs.

“We always buy the company’s trailers because they are the best around,” said Brian. Unfortunately, due to his illhealth, he was unable to attend this year’s Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s Winter Fair at Llanelwedd, and so it was left to Mary and their daughter Elaine to collect their prize and take it home to Llanfyrnach. Gwawr Lewis, of the production company Telesgop, who make Ffermio, said that interest in the competition increased every year.

“Whether you’re a farmer or someone who loves the great outdoors an Ifor Williams trailer will always be a superb product to win,” she said , “It’s fantastic that the company has, once again, put up three of their best products as prizes, which helped to ensure that interest was again massive.

“The Ffermio competition is very valuable to us, with viewers far and wide tuning in, in the hope of getting their hands on the trailers. “The winners appreciate the quality of the trailers, be they farmers, small holders, or horse owners. It is a very special time for Telesgop’s Ffermio team, to see the excellent prizes going once more to very worthy winners. ”

Iorwerth Roberts, the company’s head of sales in North Wales, said Ifor Williams Trailers was proud to be associated with Ffermio and that the faith in their product was clearly demonstrated in the response to the competition. “We have had fantastic support from our loyal customers over many years and in return we feel it is vitally important to support the rural community,” he said.

“Ffermio provides us with a great way of giving something back.” Winner of the first prize, a TA5G 10-feet-long trailer with sheep decks, worth £4,105 plus VAT, was Myrddin Davies, of Ffordd Tan y Ysgol, Llanrwst, while the third prize of a Q5e model with hinged solid sides, roof rack and stock door, worth £1,110 plus VAT went to Morris Jones, of Tryal Farm, Llanrhystyd, near Aberystwyth.

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Farming

Conservation groups don’t like ‘unpalatable truth’

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Post-badger: A hedgehog experiences nature

THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales has warned that conservation bodies have their heads in the sand over the devastating impact badgers have had on hedgehog numbers, and are doing conservation a great disservice by scapegoating farmers.

The State of British Hedgehogs 2018 report released on February 7 by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species estimates that hedgehog numbers have halved since the beginning of the century, and places the lion’s share of the blame on intensive farming.

However, world leading hedgehog expert Dr Pat Morris, author of The New Hedgehog Book, wrote in his 2006 book “The implications [of high badger population densities] for hedgehog survival are serious…ignoring the issue or pretending that badgers exist only by harmless drinking of rainwater doesn’t help at all.”

A survey of badger numbers between November 2011 and March 2013 found that badger numbers in England and Wales have increased by between 70% and 105% in the past 25 years.

“Dr Morris is named in the State of British Hedgehogs 2018 report as the instigator of the first survey of hedgehogs based on animals killed on roads, but no mention is made of his concerns regarding high badger numbers having such a devastating impact on hedgehogs.

The issue is dismissed and swept under the carpet, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the impact of badger predation, while farmers are effectively singled out as being to blame,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

A 2014 peer reviewed study of hedgehog numbers in ten 100km2 areas where badgers were culled in England found that “…counts of hedgehogs more than doubled over a 5-year period from the start of badger culling, whereas hedgehog counts did not change where there was no badger culling.”

Mr Roberts said: “Of course there are areas where intensive farming has had a detrimental impact on hedgehog numbers, but it is simply wrong to paint the whole of the UK as being like that – the fall in hedgehog numbers has in fact coincided with farmers planting more hedges.”

Mr Roberts added that this view was backed up by the RSPB, who said that losses of managed hedges appear to have halted in the mid-1990s, while the net length of hedges in the UK was stable or increasing.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species report said it was planning to engage with the farming community to ‘stem the alarming decline of our country hedgehogs’.

The likelihood is that there is a range of events causing impacts on the hedgehog population. Certain types of pesticides affect the hedgehog’s food chain, while larger and more open fields with less substantial hedgerows might also contribute to hedgehog predation and decline. The increased use of road vehicles is a certain factor, as is urban and suburban spread. Unusually, domestic pets are not a major hazard for hedgehog populations.

In rural Wales, however, the dramatic explosion in badger populations cannot be ignored as a significant factor in driving the decline of hedgehog numbers.

In the early-2000s, an investigation was carried out by the Small Mammal Specialist Group into patterns in hedgehog and badger populations across hundreds of square kilometres of rural southwest England and the midlands. One important finding was that hedgehogs appeared to be absent from large swathes of pastoral grasslands where they are thought to have once been commonplace. The group surveyed hedgehogs in a number of areas which were geographically and ecologically similar, but with different levels of badger culling.

Hedgehog numbers in suburban areas doubled during the five years of badger culling, and remained static in areas without culling. This demonstrated for the first time that badger predation is a strong limiting factor for hedgehog populations in these particular habitats.

Until the mid to late 20th century, heavy persecution of badgers kept them at low numbers. The Badgers Act of 1973 introduced protections, enhanced by the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act. Consequently surveys published in January 2014 revealed that in the 25 years since the first survey in 1985-88, the number of badger social groups in England has doubled to around 71,600.

In pasture-dominated and mixed agricultural landscapes, and in some suburban habitats, badgers thrive with have plentiful denning opportunities and abundant food resources. The largest increases in the density of badger social groups have occurred in the landscapes that dominate southern, western and eastern England. These are also the areas where hedgehog declines are likely to be most severe.

While nobody is suggesting that badgers be culled to improve biodiversity and give hedgehogs a chance of re-establishing themselves, the refusal to acknowledge evidence which they find inconvenient suggests that the weight that can be given to the Hedgehog Survey is questionable.

Glyn Roberts suggested that those ignoring the evidence were simply unprepared to face the truth about natural predation: “By sweeping under the carpet the unpalatable truth that badgers eat hedgehogs, and that the doubling in badger numbers has had a catastrophic impact on hedgehog numbers, and scapegoating farmers by highlighting outdated ideas about hedge removal, conservation bodies are doing a huge disservice to hedgehogs and conservation.

“In fact, they are doing exactly what Dr Pat Morris warned of in his Hedgehog Book – burying their heads in the sand by pretending increased badger numbers are not a major threat to hedgehog survival.”

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Farming

Charities benefit from breakfast fundraising

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'An incredible job': Glyn Roberts hails FUW members' generosity

THE EQUIVALENT of a year’s farm income (£13,000) has been raised by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, for its charitable causes – Alzheimer’s Society Cymru and The Farming Community Network.

Speaking about the success of the FUW’s farmhouse breakfast week at the end of January, Union President Glyn Roberts said: “Our staff, members and wonderful volunteers have done an incredible job in raising what is the equivalent of a year’s farm income for many farms in Wales for our chosen charities.

“Farming communities are close-knit communities and this shows what can be achieved when we all come together, with a common goal. Through these events, where we all sat around the kitchen table to talk and share our thoughts about #FarmingMatters, we’ve strengthened ongoing and permanent relationships and established new ones.

“The money we have raised in our rural communities will go towards helping others in our communities – we must never forget that our communities are the engine room of people powered change and also that this strength of community has the power to hold governments to account.”

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Farming

FMD plans tested

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Exercise Blackthorn: Testing FMD preparedness

GOVERNMENT departments around the UK are set to carry out simulation exercises to test contingency plans for dealing with any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Exercise Blackthorn involved the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland are set to test their current state of readiness over the next few months.

The EU Directive 2003/85/EC requires Member States to exercise their contingency plans either:

  • ​twice within a five year period; or
  • ​during “the five year period after the outbreak of a major epizootic disease has been effectively controlled and eradicated.”

The first simulation exercise took place on Thursday, February 8, with a further table-top exercise on March 8 followed by a real-time exercise on April 25 and 26 April.

Exercise Blackthorn will end on June 7 with a final table-top exercise. UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said regular testing of contingency plans was an important part of making sure the authorities can respond to outbreaks.

“Exercises like this provide an opportunity for teams across government and industry to engage and to learn lessons in a controlled and safe environment,” he said.

“The risk of foot-and-mouth disease arriving in the UK is low but ever present. Government monitors disease outbreaks and incidence around the world assessing risk for the UK and taking action to mitigate risk where possible.”

After being free of FMD since 1968, Great Britain suffered a return of the disease in 2001. The entire outbreak lasted for 221 days and had a devastating impact on the farming industry, rural community and the wider economy across the UK. The UK was officially declared disease free on 22 January 2002.

An exercise evaluation report will be published in the autumn.

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