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No magic bullet for improving lamb production, FUW farm visit told

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no magicIMPROVING the efficiency of lamb production was the main topic of discussion during a Farmers’ Union of Wales-organised visit to independent sheep consultant Catherine Nakielny’s Carmarthenshire family farm.

Dr Nakielny, of KN Consulting, farms 800 ewes at her home at Talley, near Llandeilo. She previously worked for a commercial sheep breeding company and various industry consultants following her studies at Aberystwyth University where she completed an Animal Science BSc and PhD on Breeding Sheep for Resistance to Roundworms.

A Nuffield Scholar, she is chairman of the FUW’s animal health and welfare committee, the union’s Carmarthenshire county chairman, sits on the NSA Welsh committee and represents Wales on the NSA UK policy and technical committee.

She is also a Wales representative for the Moredun Research Institute, was a member of Farming Connect’s Agri Academy 2012 Rural Leadership Programme and received the National Sheep Association Cymru/Wales Award 2012.

She is a technical sheep specialist covering a variety of sheep production issues, has been involved in the sheep industry for over 15 years and has been working as an independent sheep consultant for the last five years.

Over this period she has been involved in a number of research and demonstration projects ranging from sheep breeding and genetic improvement to parasite control and winter forage costs.

In 2011 she was awarded a Nuffield scholarship and has since visited a number of countries including Ireland, New Zealand and Australia studying lamb production systems and new opportunities for improving flock profitability.

She studied the role of efficiency in reducing methane emissions from lamb production due to concerns that the climate change debate would lead to calls for a reduction in livestock numbers.

However, following a meeting with leading scientists and policy makers, it is clear that the need to produce more food to feed a growing population means that the focus will in the future lie with increasing efficiency of production and “sustainable intensification”.

Dr Nakielny has a particular interest in improving the efficiency of lamb production. She said:

“Whilst there is need to improve efficiency of production and much talk about sustainability, the future of lamb production lies in the ability of individual producers to create profitable businesses. Without this there is no sustainability.

“Policy makers and scientists have a role to play in supporting research and creating a framework in which producers can operate effectively but ultimately profitability results from taking control of an individual business and making the most of market opportunities and meeting the needs of consumers.

“Lamb is already a high value product on the shelves so we can’t expect to see rapid increases in what we receive for lamb so we need to think about the things we can control. There is no magic bullet and I believe that profitability will come from tackling a range of issues which currently reduce profitability.

“Risk management will also become increasingly important as well as being able to react to changing conditions based on a clear understanding of what drives the business.”

Dr Nakielny is therefore working with a number of producers to develop monitoring and benchmarking systems as well as working with Farming Connect to develop the Know Your Flock+ benchmarking groups.

Looking to promote innovation in the sector, Dr Nakielny has also developed The Ram Shop, a unique marketing tool for ram breeders as well as working on a number of tools to help with the monitoring and benchmarking of sheep flocks.

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Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes

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A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.

People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”

“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”

For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01970 633 252.

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7% council tax increase to protect education funding

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THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.

2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.

The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.

Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”

“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”

In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.

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Information management policies updated to improve security

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THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.

The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.

The three policies that have been reviewed are:

· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy

The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”

The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.

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