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Farming

Gates funds ‘supercow’ research

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Prime Moo-ver: Bill Gates opens windows for research opportunities

RESEARCH that could lead to cows producing more milk, chickens laying better-quality eggs and crops being able to withstand droughts or disease received a funding injection of about $174 million from Britain’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Microsoft founder wants to create a bovine that will produce more milk than a European cow while still being able to withstand hot temperatures.

He said: ‘The impact per dollar we spend is super-high in this area. You can have a cow that is four times as productive with the same survivability.’

The research is part of a £28 million ($40 million) investment by the entrepreneur in the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), which is a non-profit organisation based in Edinburgh.

The money will also be used to develop stronger crops and research diseases which can cause huge economic losses for African farmers.

While it is currently unclear how the cow will be created, Business Insider suggests it maybe via artificial insemination.

Climate scientists have warned that cows could be bad for the environment because of the methane they produce.

However, Gates says they can help mitigate global poverty and starvation.

The funding was announced during a visit by Gates to Edinburgh University.

He said ‘It’s great to have the chance to visit the University of Edinburgh with Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt (pictured below)and to see how the UK’s leadership in research and innovation doesn’t just benefit Britain, but also saves and improves lives in the poorest parts of the world.’

‘Cutting-edge’ agriculture research in Edinburgh has been backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates (left). He is pictured here with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt at Edinburgh University.

Millions of farmers in Africa, who depend on agriculture to support their families, struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table because of natural disasters.

Now UK scientists are using their expertise to identify specific genes that help them become more nutritious, grow faster and more resilient to disease and extreme weather.

It is estimated the work will help up to 100 million African farmers lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is announcing the research, said: ‘Unpredictable flooding, plant diseases and drought are threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa who struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table – the urgency of the task is clear.

‘That’s why UK aid is supporting British scientists to develop new crops that are more productive, more nutritious and more resistant to droughts and flooding, as well as creating new medicines to protect cattle and poultry from devastating disease.

‘New ideas, cutting-edge science and innovative partnerships with organisations like the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation will help Britain create a healthier, more secure and prosperous world for us all.’

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Farming

McDonald’s backs Countryside Fund

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McDonald'S: Fast-food giant backing Prince Charles' charity

McDonald’S: Fast-food giant backing Prince Charles’ charity

Story:
McDONALD’s UK has entered into a three-year partnership with The Prince’s Countryside Fund, supporting the charity’s work in improving the economic resilience of farming families.
The Prince’s Countryside Fund, set up by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010, works with farming and rural communities throughout the UK, and to date has provided over £10 million in grant and initiative funding.
Since 2016, the Fund’s flagship scheme, The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme, has supported over 900 farming families to improve their business skills with free training and professional advice, in 60 locations across the British Isles. The programme has a track record of success, with evidence of significant behavioural change occurring – 91% of participating families improve their communication, and 89% have a better understanding of costs as a result of taking part.
McDonald’s works with over 23,000 British and Irish farmers, the partnership with the Prince’s Countryside Fund cements the business’ commitment to their futures, as well as the future of the farming industry.
Thanks to the support of McDonald’s, the Fund is launching the ‘Beef it Up’ scheme in 2020, a series of group workshops aimed at livestock farms in the Farm Resilience Programme alumni network. In order to further strengthen these farm businesses, the workshops will address topics including:
Animal health and welfare
Farm safety
Economic resilience
Environmental management
The ‘Beef it Up’ workshops will help farms to continuously improve their practices and sustainability performance, by introducing them to practical steps they can take to immediately make changes to their production systems.
McDonald’s already has a proven track record in sharing knowledge through Farm Forward – an agriculture programme with three aims; to develop skills and knowledge in the industry, raise animal welfare standards and encourage environmental improvements to help create a sustainable future for British and Irish farming.
The partnership marks the latest step in McDonald’s sustainability journey and together with The Prince’s Countryside Fund and the business’ suppliers, the partnership will create fresh new solutions to the big challenges the industry is facing, promoting innovation that aims to futureproof the sector.
Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “I am thrilled that the Fund will be working again with McDonald’s, in order to help us improve the prospects of family farm businesses across the UK at such a critical time.”
Nina Prichard, Head of Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing at McDonald’s UK & Ireland said: “Our supply chain is absolutely critical to our success – we couldn’t serve the food that we’re famous for without the support and hard work of 23,000 British and Irish farmers. This partnership is an important move in supporting them and securing their future – farming is part of the fabric of our society, and we are delighted to be working with The Prince’s Countryside Fund on this resilience programme.”

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Farming

Ocean currents affect crop yields

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Sea change: Could produce colder, drier weather

CROP production in Britain will fall dramatically if climate change causes the collapse of a vital pattern of ocean currents, new research suggests.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) brings heat from the tropics, making Britain warmer and wetter than it would otherwise be.
University of Exeter scientists show that, while warming Britain is expected to boost food production, if the AMOC collapses it would not just wipe out these gains but cause the “widespread cessation of arable (crop-growing) farming” across Britain.
Such a collapse – a climate change “tipping point” – would leave Britain cooler, drier and unsuitable for many crops, the study says.
The main problem would be reduced rainfall and, though irrigation could be used, the amount of water and the costs “appear to be prohibitive”.
“If the AMOC collapsed, we would expect to see much more dramatic change than is currently expected due to climate change,” said Dr Paul Ritchie, of the University of Exeter.
“Such a collapse would reverse the effects of warming in Britain, creating an average temperature drop of 3.4°C and leading to a substantial reduction in rainfall (−123mm during the growing season).
“These changes, especially the drying, could make most land unsuitable for arable farming.”
The study examines a “fast and early” collapse of the AMOC, which is considered “low-probability” at present – though the AMOC has weakened by an estimated 15% over the last 50 years.
Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, said worst-case scenarios must be considered when calculating risks.
“Any risk assessment needs to get a handle on the large impacts if such a tipping point is reached, even if it is a low-probability event” he said.
“The point of this detailed study was to discover how stark the impacts of AMOC collapse could be.”
The study follows a recent paper by Lenton and colleagues warning of a possible “cascade” of inter-related tipping points.
The new study reinforces the message that “we would be wise to act now to minimise the risk of passing climate tipping points” said Lenton.
Growing crops is generally more profitable than using land as pasture for livestock rearing, but much of northern and western Britain is unsuitable for arable farming.
“With the land area suitable for arable farming expected to drop from 32% to 7% under AMOC collapse, we could see a major reduction in the value of agricultural output,” said Professor Ian Bateman, of Exeter’s Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute.
“In this scenario, we estimate a decrease of £346 million per year – a reduction of over 10% in the net value of British farming.”
Speaking about the expectation that moderate warming would boost agricultural production in Britain, he added: “It’s important to note that the wider effects for the UK and beyond will be very negative as import costs rise steeply and the costs of most goods climb.”
The study focusses on agriculture, but AMOC collapse and the resulting temperature drop could lead to a host of other economic costs for the UK.
The AMOC is one reason that average temperatures in Britain are warmer than those of many places at similar latitudes. For example, Moscow and the southern extremes of Alaska are further south than Edinburgh.

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Farming

395 farms join animal health project

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AS 2020 begins, it’s been announced that 395 beef and sheep farmers from across Wales have so far signed up to a pro-active animal health planning project, Stoc+, promoted by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) in a bid to improve overall health of their flock and ultimately, enhancing animal health planning and boosting production efficiency.
Stoc+ forms one part of HCC’s three-strand, Welsh Government and European Union funded Red Meat Development Programme (RMDP).
During the course of the five-year project HCC will bring together up to 500 commercial sheep and beef producers across Wales and encourage them to adopt a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach to animal health.
Each participating farmer will receive practical, expert advice and specialist support for up to three years. In addition, all farmers will benefit from a tailor-made Flock and Herd Health Plan and Action Plan to work towards various targets set by their local veterinary practitioner.
As part of the project, the team have identified a small number of ambassadors who include farmers and veterinary practitioners. The ambassadors’ role includes encouraging their peers to get involved and demonstrating the practical benefits of proactive health planning in terms of animal health and farm profitability.
Jonathan Lewis from Llandrindod Wells is one of the ambassadors. Mr Lewis’s upland farm has 80 Simmental, Limousin and Stabiliser cows and 1,680 Lleyn, Mules and Welsh Mountain sheep and lambs. He said, “There were many reasons behind joining the project. I wanted to improve the overall health of my flock as well as increase the number of lambs that I sold whilst reducing the number of days to slaughter. During the course of the project, I would also like to reduce the antibiotics used on the farm and be advised on how to improve biosecurity.”
Claire Jones of Dolgellau Vets is a vet ambassador for the project, and as a vet and farmer’s wife, has a passion for preventative medicine and herd and flock health work. Claire says, “Health planning is something that I feel should be an integral part of all farm management, as it improves the efficiency of the farm and health of the animals and also helps to improve the vet and farmer communication and relationship.”
For more information on the project and to meet other project ambassadors visit the HCC website.
Stoc+ is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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