THE FARMERS’ UNION of Wales will highlight the importance of family farms and their links to the wider rural community during the National Eisteddfod at Llanelli next week (August 2-9).
On Sunday and Monday (August 3-4) of the event Carmarthenshire farmer’s wife Nicola Dickenson will display her range of kids clothing “Kids Casuals” at the FUW stand. Nicola diversified from farming after deciding that the income of the farm was not enough in 2001. Using her own farming-themed designs to create t-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and socks for kids, the clothing is designed and printed on the farm at Esgair Farm, Llanpumpsaint. She believes her clothes have a personal touch, highlighting a farming theme featuring tractors and diggers, as she understands how appealing these are to children of all ages. She and her husband Martin, a PCSO for rural policing serving in Carmarthen, have been farming for over 20 years running the 72-acre farm with a small suckler herd. In the near future they hope to go into direct meat sales. Representatives from Agri- Advisor will also be at hand on Monday (August 4) between 10am and 4pm to provide advice on farming issues and concerns. On Tuesday (August 5) at 11am there will be an “open discussion” at the stand on a range of topics covering rural crime and farming policing links, with Dyfed-Powys Police chief commissioner Christopher Salmon. Members will get a chance to discuss current farming issues on Wednesday(August 6) when Labour MP Nia Griffith, Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM William Powell and FUW director of policy Nick Fenwick visit the stand at 11am. On the afternoon of Tuesday and Wednesday (August 5-6) there will be free milk tasting from local supplier WJ Phillips and Sons of Cwm Dairy Farm, Cwmffrwd, Carmarthen. The family business, which has been running for over 45 years, delivers milk to households and businesses in an area stretching from St Clears to Pontyates. One of their businesses is Castell Howell food wholesalers. The family purchased the dairy milk round business in 1969 from FUW member, Brian Thomas, Gelliddu, Carmarthen. The business is now run by Mr Phillips’ sons Mike and Dorian. They milk 90 Holstein Friesian cows with 55 followers, own 85 acres and rent another 25. “What makes their milk stand out and what their customers like, is the fact that they can chose between homogenised or non-homogenised milk and we look forward to tasting it,” said FUW Carmarthenshire county executive officer David Waters. “We are also looking forward to the prose medal presentation on Wednesday at 4pm. “This prestigious award for the best piece of prose on the topic of ‘confrontation’ has been sponsored by the FUW Carmarthenshire branch with a prize fund of £750,” added Mr Waters. On Thursday and Friday (August 6-7) local weaver Judy Roberts will be displaying her craft skills. She has been spinning for 40 years, designing garments and patterns to suit the yarn produced. She mixes natural fibres such as silk, wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora, yak and camel to produce some outstanding yarns. She has taught knitting and knitwear design in Llandeilo and runs a weekly knitting group in Llanarthne and additionally provides personal tuition in the art of spinning. “Throughout the week, children will be able to enter farming-themed colouring competitions with a range of prizes and are invited to find the ear tag of Tegwyn the cow as she travels across the country. “Children can pick a square on a coloured numbered board to guess where she has lost her ear tag on her travels across Wales. “Each square costs £1 and the money raised will go to children’s hospice charities Ty Hafan and Ty Gobaith. “Representative from the YFC and RABI will be on the stand daily and we look forward to welcoming representatives of land consultants Philip Meade by the end of the week to our stand,” added Mr Waters. Throughout the week there will be a warm welcome, as well as light refreshments, for all to enjoy and members of FUW Carmarthenshire staff will be on hand to discuss general farming issues.
Local farmer sentenced for animal welfare offences
On 6 January 2021, at Aberystwyth Justice Centre the Magistrates passed sentence on Mr. Toby Holland of Maesgwyn, Blaenporth after he was found guilty in his absence of 10 charges relating to Animal Welfare and Animal By-Products offences.
Following the trial on 3 February 2020, a court warrant was issued for Mr. Toby Holland’ arrest in connection with these offences, and he was arrested by Police in December 2020.
The District Judge, in the trial held on 3 February 2020 heard that Animal Welfare Officers of the Public Protection team visited the farm on the 29 January 2019 and found a number of animal welfare issues. A sheep was found to be lying on its back unable to move and it was evident that it had been there for some time. Despite requesting that Mr. Holland seek veterinary assistance for the animal, a visit the following day had found that he failed to seek treatment for the animal and left it to die. He was found guilty for the unnecessary suffering of this sheep.
The Animal Welfare Officers found a barn containing 19 pigs. On seeing the officers the pigs were shrieking for food. The pigs were very thin and kept in an accumulation of muck with no dry lying area available. Within the pen were two dead pigs to which the live pigs had access. A post-mortem of one of the dead pigs found that the animal had likely died of starvation after finding no fat reserves remaining in the carcass.
The Veterinarian from the Animal and Plant Health Agency who attended the farm concluded that both the dead and live pigs had been suffering unnecessarily, and Mr. Holland was found guilty of these offences. He was also found guilty of failing to meet the needs of the animals, by failing to provide a dry lying area for the pigs.
The visit on 29 January 2019 also found a number of sheep carcasses strewn across the fields. It was clear that that they had been there for some time, and the live sheep had access to the same field. The District Judge found Mr. Holland guilty of failing to dispose of the carcasses in accordance with the requirements of a notice served under The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (Wales) Regulations 2014.
A follow up visit on 30 May 2019 found the pigs were kept in a field where they had access to plastic bags, metal sheeting with sharp edges, and animal bones and skulls. These items could cause harm to pigs, and he was found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of not providing a suitable environment for the pigs. Tthere were sheep carcasses in the fields, that Mr. Holland failed to collect and dispose in accordance with legal requirements. He was found guilty of a further offence under the Animal By-Products Regulations.
He was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment in total for the offences, and he was issued a disqualification order for 2 years from keeping any animals. The Local Authority were awarded £750 costs.
Following sentencing, Cllr Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet member for Public Protection Services, said: “The majority of farmers in Ceredigion have excellent farming practices, that ensures the highest standards of animal welfare. Unfortunately we must deal with a minority who for whatever reason fail to meet basic legal standards. I wish to thank the partner agencies who assisted the authority in the investigation, and the officers for their hard work in handling a difficult case.”
First week of life is key
IMPROVED new-born lamb and calf survival rates not only result in increased income, but also improve welfare, reduce disease, and reduce environmental footprint, according to the results of major GB-wide research.
The Neonatal Survival Project, funded by AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) in the sheep and beef sector, was established to study the key factors which could drive further improvements in farm efficiency and maximise animal welfare.
Key findings show that the majority of lamb and calf losses occur in the first seven days after birth, with over 98 per cent of lamb and 90 per cent of calf losses occurring in this period.
The findings – and the recommendations for new practices to be adopted on farms – will be discussed at two major webinars. The first will be held on 5 January for vets followed by an event on 21 January for farmers. To register visit ahdb.org.uk/events.
A spokesperson on behalf of the three levy boards said: “A survey and interviews were used to understand motivations and barriers for change. While many farmers were aware of good practice industry advice on new-born survival, it was not consistently followed. This was particularly true with respect to colostrum management and genetic selection.
“Farmers were confident in their abilities to improve survival rates, but tended to underestimate new-born losses on their farm relative to national averages. A cultural stigma around losses limits farmers in discussing their experiences with peers, and in some cases, even with their vet.
“The research also discovered that losses can be highly variable between years; the importance of accurate record keeping also became apparent. While most suckler farmers have access to reliable records, a significant number of sheep farmers do not consistently record their data.”
With global pressures to reduce antibiotic use, this study found that a significant proportion of beef and sheep farmers were able to manage infectious diseases without purchasing critically important antibiotics. Preventive antibiotic use was reduced or withdrawn successfully on some farms, while oral antibiotic treatment at birth made no difference to lamb outcomes in an experimental study within this project.
The study also demonstrated that good long-term protein status in late pregnancy results in reduced lamb losses between scanning and 24 hours old.
Twin born lambs with a low serum antibody (IgG) concentration were more likely to have poorer growth rates. As shown by previous studies, poor energy balance in late pregnancy results in a low lamb IgG. This indicates that lambs born to ewes in negative energy balance are at increased risk of absorbing insufficient colostrum antibodies from the ewe.
The project is now complete, although work is ongoing to enable the implementation of a sustainable youngstock survival plan across Great Britain.
Consumers ‘sleepwalking’ away from meat
A LACK of inspiration, rather than a conscious reaction to trends such as veganism, was at the heart of the pre-Covid-19 reduction in meat, fish and poultry consumption, new AHDB research has suggested.
Before the pandemic struck, some 7.8 million (35%) households in Great Britain had unwittingly purchased less meat, fish and poultry products, according to AHDB analysis of Kantar data [52 w/e 26 January]. This figure accounted for 99% of the 1.3% volume drop in retail sales.
However, the twenty per cent of households which had at least one ‘conscious meat reducer’ accounted for just 1% of the losses, with the majority citing other reasons for reducing consumption.
The unconscious reducers were said by the report to mostly be of retirement age and living with fewer people. They were found to be much less likely to experiment with cooking or refer to themselves as a ‘foodie’, preferring more traditional dishes. They were also found to be unsatisfied with shopping for meat, with just 29% of the unconscious reducer group saying they enjoyed browsing meat aisles and only 31% find them to be inspiring.
The report urged the meat industry to focus its efforts on winning this group back as they offered a better route to boosting meat consumption than conscious reducers.
“How unconscious reducers think and feel about meat isn’t any different to those people who are actually increasing their meat consumption – they’re not turning away on purpose so there is a chance to re-engage them with the category,” explained one of the report’s authors, AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley.
“The biggest opportunity is at the point of purchase. The key thing the report highlights is those people are wanting a better in-store experience. There could be simple messaging in-store to remind people why they enjoy meat, give them a bit of inspiration and remind them it’s versatile and convenient.”
Malley added the meat-free category is “excelling” in innovation and convenience through ready-meal and marinated NPD – products which the report said the meat industry had invested less heavily in.
She also praised the packaging of meat alternatives, which tended to be “very colourful and brought recipes and flavours to life” for shoppers, and urged the meat industry to do its own innovation in these areas in a bid to win back “distracted” consumers.
According to the report, distractions included negative media coverage of the meat industry and the prominence of plant-based ranges in stores.
But in positive news for the sector, it found the coronavirus pandemic had seen sales volumes of meat, fish and poultry rise 8% year-on-year in the 52 weeks to 6 September. Unconscious reducers were discovered to have accounted for 35% of this uplift.
Malley said meat “benefited massively” from the rise in in-home occasions this year and consumers thinking more about their food choices. “It has highlighted that it’s quite easy to re-engage people,” she said.
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