Schmallenberg - Update
Schmallenberg (SBV) latest
From reports being received at NSA HQ it would appear that fewer lambing flocks are now experiencing SBV compared to those lambing before Christmas and early into the New Year. This might be expected on two fronts - as the tupping season progressed midge activity should have reduced, and probably more of the early lambing flocks were synchronized compared to those lambing now.
We now have some additional information from a recent European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) meeting:-
SBV has a very high level of 'vector competence' compared to other viruses and it is this that is accounting for the fast and wide spread of the virus across the country.
EU Members States, including the UK, are still saying that on an industry level SBV will have a low impact (although everyone recognises that for those farmers affected the suggestion that it is low impact can be offensive), but the impact on synchronized flocks can be far higher.
There is strong evidence that there is very high protective immunity in individual sheep that were affected in the previous year, and there is fairly high prevalence of antibodies (87-98%) across flocks that have been exposed.
There is talk of the virus being present and infective in semen but this is not proven. AHVLA are to do some research into this, and scientists are very skeptical that in natural mating or AI this spread of infection would happen.
Approval of the application for authorisation of a SBV vaccine is still underway and Ministers, Defra, AHVLA, and VMD have all been made aware of the importance of this vaccine to the livestock industry.
To finish with some good news – there has been exhaustive research completed that has shown there is no risk to human health of the current Schmallenberg virus.
NSA SBV survey goes online
You should have all received an email letting you know the industry-led Lambing Survey is now online and will be available until the end of May for farmers to fill in once they have finished lambing. The questions are designed to help get an impression of the lambing season as a whole, but specifically the impact of Schmallenberg (SBV). NSA called for such a survey back in December, when it became clear AHVLA would not be collecting any detailed information about SBV on individual farms. This has resulting in the Lambing Survey, which is a joint initiative between NSA, AHVLA, Eblex, HCC, NBA, NFU and QMS.
The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WWHBNC5 and should take about 10 minutes to complete if you have to hand information on the number of ewes and losses between then and lambing. The survey should be completed once you have finished lambing, and should be completed twice or more if you lamb ewes in two or more batches. If you know any NSA members without internet access please tell them they can contact the NSA to complete the survey over the phone instead - weekdays (9am-5.30pm) on 01684 892661, preferably with their NSA membership number to hand.
The ewe was working hard to lamb but progress was slow. On first inspection the legs were jointed giving the impression of front legs. BUT there was a tail where the head was expected and in actual fact this lamb was presented backwards. Lambing progressed very slowly and it became apparent that the front legs were fused bent at the knee joint. Very luckily and with great care she was lambed normally.
If this lamb had been presented normally our vet said that a caesarian would have been needed. From the hip down to the foot each joint was back to front. The front legs could only be moved and straightened by breaking the knee joint.
This particular ewe was 8 days overdue and had been looking uncomfortable but not showing any obvious signs of lambing. On investigation the cervix was not open. The following day she started to push and show signs of lambing but progress was very slow. There was a jumble of lambs legs in the birth canal. It proved too difficult to lamb this ewe as it was obvious the lambs were deformed and the vet was called. She eventually managed to draw out two stillborn lambs which had been entangled. These lambs had been dead for some time (2 - 3 weeks). Although this ewe had been scanned carrying twins the vet then felt another lamb inside. This lamb was huge and very bloated and could not be lambed naturally therefore a caesarian was conducted. Although the lamb was dead it would appear that the placenta was still feeding the lamb which caused the oedema. This was a very difficult caesarian. The appearance of this lamb was that of a bloated rugby football with deformed leg appendages and very large head with undershot jaw.
Ewes not developing udder as would be expected and giving birth to very small and/or stillborn lambs. These weak lambs require lots of attention to get them going but once they do they seem to be quite robust.
Lambs appearing normal at birth which, in spite of attention, have then 'faded' and died within a few hours.
Newborn lambs from a normal deleivery being very slow to suckle and requiring time and patience to get them drinking. In some cases it has been more efficient to take colostrum off the ewe and feed it to the lamb.
Ewes giving birth to a mix of normal and abnormal, live and dead lambs.
SBV Update by Sue Farquhar
SBV Update: 4th February 2013
Having recently attended an NFU livestock meeting for sheep farmers in Hereford market, where we had an interesting talk on SBV, by a large veterinary practice. The one overwhelming anecdote is that is that once an area is affected the level of impact is very random i.e. Joe Bloggs may have 50% losses in his lambs and Fred just 1/4 mile away and lambing at the same time is unaffected. Many other shepherds are reporting that they have had live lambs that have been smaller than usual , these lambs start of ok but then 3-4 days later may go off their feet and fade away and will certainly require TLC if they are to survive. These weakly lambs have been tested positive for SBV. Some farmers have had deformed lambs, that have been tested positive but on testing the mothers they have shown no anti bodies, which the vets are finding this a little puzzling.
In the South West the news according to local vets is that the incidence of affected lambs is reducing as lambing proceeds from the high of up to 50% affected in early December.
Just remember if in doubt, seek your vets advice.
SBV Update: 26th January 2013
This will be a short note to keep breeders and flock owners up to date on the practical side with the Schmallenberg virus (SBV). There are many stories, rumour and half truths circulating and they seem to be gathering momentum. I have unfortunately been affected with SBV in my flock, so I would like to share a few snippets that might be of help to others. You can read the theory on the internet at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/schmallenberg-virus/ , but from my experience the virus can manifest itself in many different ways. The lambs with fused joints [as in the photo] nearly always come breach, these are boxed shape with the leg joint fused and often the neck is fused back towards the spine. Great care is needed when assisting these ewes to lamb in order to avoid tearing the womb with the fused feet. If in doubt seek veterinary help. Some lambs come with very spindly legs and a rugger ball belly, some are neurologically miswired , they can suck but are unable to stand, others are born weak, some with a curved spine.
In addition to the problems with SBV the weather has played its part leading some ewes to produce weak lambs this season probably due to the lack of nutrition after such an appallingly wet summer and autumn that has leached all the goodness from the grass.
Even for seasoned Shropshire breeders this lambing is one of the most difficult ever. If you have any queries on SBV please e-mail Sue Farquhar on email@example.com or phone, you are not alone this lambing season.
Article posted Friday 1st February 2013 by the NSA
Some positive Schmallenberg reports are emerging - and survey will be available soon.
Our sympathy is with those early lambing flocks that have been hit very hard by Schmallenberg (SBV) and we know how nervous many members are about ewes that are yet to lamb. It was therefore nice to receive one very positive report from NSA member Dan Phipps this week. Dan suffered large losses from SBV last year but has just finished lambing 435 ewes on the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border without seeing a single lamb with SBV-like symptoms. He marked individual ewes that produced affected lambs last year and all of these had healthy, strong lambs. However, he did experience a higher barren rate than in previous years, with 120 ewes carrying raddle marks but scanning empty being moved into the later lambing flock. These will be scanned next week, and regardless if they are in lamb or not (fingers crossed they are) Dan would like to know if their infertility is linked to SBV.
Questions such as this, and the huge disparity across the country of some flocks suffering losses and others not, underline yet again how vital it is that we collect information on a large-scale to improve our understanding. The 2012/13 lambing season survey will be available very soon and we cannot overstate the importance of everyone filling this in. It has come about due to some hard work by NSA, along with AHVLA, EBLEX, NFU and NBA, and will hopefully capture the impact that the virus had had/is having on sheep farms.
It has been designed to be completed online once you have finished lambing each batch of ewes - i.e. if you lamb some ewes early and some later complete the survey twice, but if you lamb everything together do it just once. As long as you have basic information to hand (such as scanning rate, number of losses etc) then it will not take long to fill in. We will alert you as soon as the survey is available, and NSA Head Office will happily complete the survey over the phone with any NSA member who does not have the ability to do it online.
Disease surveillance in England and Wales to be overhauled.
The emergence of Schmallenberg reiterates how important disease surveillance is, and will be a key consideration as NSA completes the consultation paper that has been issued by AHVLA about surveillance on a greatly reduced budget. NSA representatives have also been attending AHVLA-ran workshops in the last fortnight to get a better understanding of what surveillance might look like in the future when the chance of all existing AHVLA centres remaining open is very slim. AHVLA is considering ways for 75% of all farmers to have a drop-off point within a one-hour drive, from which carcases will be taken to centralised post-mortem centres - but it is also open to other suggestions and NSA will gladly communicate with any member who has an interest in this area. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, but bearing in mind the note at the top of this Update explaining the NSA server will be out-of-action this weekend.
This lambing season has seen cases of the Schmallenberg Virus affecting Shopshire Sheep flocks.
The Society thought that it might be of help to other flock members of theses situations that have presented themselves. Below are records of individual's encounters and in some cases what had to be done to deliver the lambs, and their findings.
Please be aware that this virus is affecting sheep and cattle, all breeds and is not just specific to the Shopshire Sheep Breed and the SSBA have published this information for the possible benefit of experience from other breeders.
Hopefully this will give people more information on the subject as we all seem to be learning as we go and hopefully to understand that we are not alone should it happen to you.
Should you wish to know more information on the Virus then have a look on the net and to talk to your own vet. Remember that should you ever be in difficulty with your sheep's health and well-being then please raise your concerns with your vet as is normal practice.
In summary from the findings below ..this is all the theory, but remember that this is a new virus and we are all still learning.
The virus seems to manifest it's self in different ways ...fused joints , nearly always breach ...some with very spindly legs and a rugger ball belly....some are neurologically miss wired and result in lambs that will suck but not stand....others are born weak or one is ok and the other twin is deformed.
Article posted Wednesday 30th January 2013 on RBST Website
Livestock breeders are urged to be vigilant
With lambing already underway for some early lambing flocks, the impact of the Schmallenberg virus appears to be greater than originally predicted, with some commercial flock owners reporting losses as high as 60% in some cases.
According to figures published by Defra, a total of 1211 holdings had been affected by mid January.
The virus can have a devastating impact on unborn lambs. The AHVLA website states that.."malformations observed to date include bent limbs and fixed joints twisted neck or spine, a domed appearance to the skull, short lower jaw and brain deformities...the foetal deformities vary depending on when infection occurred during pregnancy. In adult cows the acute infection resulted in diarrhoea, fever, a reduction in milk yield, with a full and rapid recovery over several days".
In some cases ewes may give birth to one deformed lamb and one normal lamb.
Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but breeders are advised to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or foetuses which are stillborn.
A Europe-wide risk assessment has concluded that Schmallenberg virus is very unlikely to cause illness in people.
Livestock keepers are reminded of the importance of maintaining strict bio-security.
Pregnant women should not have contact with sheep and goats at lambing/kidding time due to risks of exposure to disease causing organisms.
This particular ewe was 8 days overdue and had been looking uncomfortable but not showing any obvious signs of lambing. On investigation (Tues evening) the cervix was not open however yesterday (Wed) she started to push and show signs of lambing but progress was very slow. During a further internal examination the cervix was gently manipulated to help dilate it which caused the waters to break releasing an extraordinary amount of birth fluid. Once the ewe had passed all this fluid a jumble of lambs legs were in the birth canal. It proved too difficult to lamb this ewe as it was obvious the lambs were deformed and the vet was called (yet again). She eventually managed to draw out two stillborn lambs which had been entangled. These lambs had been dead for some time (2 - 3 weeks). Although this ewe had been scanned carrying twins the vet then felt another lamb inside. This lamb was huge and very bloated and there was no way it could be lambed naturally therefore a caesarean had to be conducted. This was a very difficult caesarean as although the lamb was stillborn it would appear that the placenta was still feeding the lamb which caused the oedema. It weighed 6 Kg. The appearance of this lamb was that of a bloated rugby football with deformed leg appendages and very large head with undershot jaw.
If this ewe had been left she would have shed her afterbirth and succumbed to toxaemia and died.
Please be very aware when delivering Schmallenberg affected ewes that you check there are no more lambs inside. Don't rely on scanning, this ewe had been scanned carrying twins and in fact had triplets. Of our other affected ewes, one was scanned with twins yet delivered triplets..
Sharing our experiences certainly help me keep a calm head in the early hours of this morning. I kept thinking back what you had all found which helped us to lamb a ewe.
The ewe lambed herself and produced a nice healthy lamb. She went down to have the second lamb and I noticed a nose but nothing else. The lamb was alive but had both legs back. Found the legs and brought them forward so everything looked ok and normal. Gave a pull and the lamb started to come out then got stuck behind the shoulders. Went to investigate but couldn't find anything wrong, lots of room, back legs not tucked under, everything seemed fine but couldn't understand why we couldn't get it out. My husband tried, but had no joy so we decided to call the vet. Whilst waiting for the vet to arrive the ewe gave a big push and he saw the lamb move slightly so he gave another pull and it came out. Unfortunately the lamb was dead but its belly was so distended and the hind legs very thin. The vet has taken it away to test for schmallenburg.
Thank goodness for the 'stories' as I thought back to the previous message with the rugby ball.
Dear SSBA Members
This is an important update produced by the Charollais Sheep Society concerning the
reported incidence of Schmallenberg Virus in flocks that have lambed from 1st December to
date. In some flocks up to 50% of lambs born have been infected. Carroll Barber has kindly
allowed the use of this information by the SSBA. Her report follows.
We are sorry to report that many (Charollais) flocks are reporting cases of deformed lambs being born which are most likely to be as the result of Schmallenberg infection. Breeders have contacted us from the South West, Midlands, Home Counties and South Wales. We are very sorry for those of you who are affected and can only hope that the level of problems drop back as we proceed with lambing. We thought it might be helpful to set out a few facts on the disease.
- This virus belongs to a group of viruses that are spread by insect vector, principally midges and
- Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) is not a notifiable disease.
- When ewes are bitten by infected midges they show virtually no signs of illness.
- The effect of the infection is seen in deformed lambs, born at full term. Classic signs of SBV are extended limbs which are fused, deformed heads and lambs that show few signs of normal
behaviour 'stupid lambs'.
- Often a ewe can give birth to twins; one deformed and the 2nd normal.
- Not all ewes in a flock will be give birth to deformed lambs, or all ewes on a farm. Infection is
generally quite sporadic.
- Ewes and lambs cannot pass the disease on to other sheep. You require the midge as the host for transmission of the virus.
- The growing foetus is vulnerable to the infection for only a short period of time, thought to be
around 30 - 45 days into pregnancy.
- Once ewes have been infected they will have a high level of immunity for subsequent years.
- A vaccine is nearly ready for market - but we need to apply pressure to make sure this is available for later lambing flocks and for next year.
- Care should be taken while lambing deformed lambs, as with fused limbs it is possible to severely damage ewes.
We would suggest that anyone who suspects that they may have the infection on their farm to
contact their veterinary surgeon. We know that they cannot do anything to alleviate the problems, but we do need to get the disease fully recorded. This is so the vaccine is pushed to market as soon as possible; which might help later lambing flocks in 2013. Veterinary surgeons should then contact their local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if they suspect infection with the virus and arrange to have the dead lambs tested to confirm.
It would also be helpful if you could let the office (SSBA) know if you have had a problem. It will
give us a picture of the spread of the disease and put us in a better position to push hard for the arrival of the vaccine. We need to be able to advise farming groups and bodies just how devastating this disease is.
We are sorry to bring you bad news, but hopefully many healthy, strong lambs will be born.
Remember you are certainly not alone in this horrid situation.
Jonathan & Carroll Barber, Charollais Sheep Society
The following is extracted from the Farmers Guardian
Schmallenberg virus circulating in Britain again
24 July 2012 | By Alistair Driver
SCHMALLENBERG Virus (SBV) has survived the winter and is already circulating among livestock again in Britain, with potentially serious consequences for parts of the country later this year.
Defra has announced the virus was identified on seven late-lambing farms between mid-April and May - two in the Channel Islands and one each in Dorset, West Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Kent.
According to Defra Deputy Chief veterinary Officer Alick Simmons, the ewes carrying these lambs must have become infected in January or early February. This suggests that the disease probably over-wintered in midges. We probably have more infection transmitting out of the infected areas moving westwards and northwards was we speak, "he told Farmers Guardian on Tuesday.
Mr Simmons announced that Defra is set to embark on a major nationwide SBV surveillance programme and urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of disease.He said the re-emergence of the virus was 'no surprise', given the speed and efficiency with which it has already been shown to spread in midges in mainland Europe.But he said it was impossible to estimate 'how far and how fast' the infection would spread in Britain this year.
Animals that have already been infected, including a high proportion in southern and eastern England last year, will have built up immunity. The virus is therefore expected to travel, via midges, 'like a moving front' westwards and northwards from the infected areas, Mr Simmons said. As the virus causes most of its damage in pregnant animals - leading to stillborn and deformed lambs and calves that characterise SBV - infection during the summer months is relatively harmless. The real danger time is the autumn breeding period.
One could argue that the quicker infection moves across the country and infects areas before ewes and cows go to the ram or bull, the better it will be because they will become immune before they get pregnant. It arrived in August or September last year so there was no time for sheep to gain immunity before they get pregnant, but there is time this year, Mr Simmons said.
However, the areas where the disease strikes in the autumn breeding season could endure a similar experience to the most infected southern and eastern counties in the early month of this year.
He stressed, however, that only small proportion of infected pregnant animals go on to have deformed and stillborn offspring. He added that Defra was unable to give farmers any advice about reducing the risk because of the gaps in the knowledge about its spread and impact.
Looking for signs of SBV Defra is urging farmers, particularly along the edge of the risk area, to look out for, and report to their vets, signs of SBV in adult cattle, such as milk drop, fever and diarrhoea.
AHVLA will also shortly be launching a web-based survey to assess the prevalence of the virus in the national sheep flock. It will concentrate on counties where there were no confirmed cases in 2011/2012 or that are on the edge of the infected area, such as Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Herefords, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The survey will use samples taken as part of the sheep and goat survey for Brucella melitensis. The aim is to test sufficient samples to provide 95 per cent confidence that less than 6 per cent of the flocks in these regions were exposed to the virus.
Schmallenberg has been found on 275 farms in England, 219 in sheep, 53 in cattle and three in both, although very few new cases have been identified over the summer.
It has been found in 27 counties/authorities, mainly in southern and eastern England but as far north as East Riding and as far west as Cornwall.
There have been 5,663 cases in nine member states so far, with France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and UK the worst affected. It has also been found in much smaller numbers in Luxembourg, Italy, Spain and Denmark.
NSA Members Update - 22nd June 2012
AHVLA conducts survey to measure impact of Schmallenberg virus on sheep farms
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency is undertaking a survey to measure the impact Schmallenberg (SBV) had on sheep farms during the 2011/12 lambing season. As this is a new disease, the main aim is to assess possible losses to farmers and to better understand how the disease has affected animal health and welfare in Great Britain.
AHVLA is asking all sheep farmers, including those who did not have Schmallenberg in their flock/s, to answer a short online questionnaire. There are 30 questions, which should take less than 30 minutes to complete. Links to English and Welsh versions of the questionnaire can be found below:
A summary of the survey results will be published on the AHVLA website, but no individual farms will be identifiable from these results. The closing date for answering the online questionnaire is 15 July 2012. Any questions about the survey should be sent to SBVsurvey@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk.
More information about Schmallenberg can be found on the Schmallenberg virus pages of the AHVLA website.
The Shropshire Sheep Breeders' Association is affiliated to the National Sheep Association
1st March 2013 - NSA Members' Update
Fluke and CAP reform dominate NSA UK Policy and Technical meeting.
Tuesday this week (26th February) saw the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee, which meets four times a year to discuss key policy areas, gather in London. There was an extensive agenda but the two items drawing passionate comment from our English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish representatives were liver fluke and Defra's attitude to CAP reform. There was real strength of feeling about the damage caused by liver fluke and the lack of understanding about the different products available - and specifically that triclabendazole products are the only ones that kill immature fluke but care needs to be take not to cause resistance to the drug. As always, NSA recommends members visit www.scops.org.uk, but we are also working in a number of other areas to ensure the need for new tools is fully appreciated by the wider industry.
Frustrations around CAP reform was also voiced and specifically that Defra and Owen Paterson are still calling for smaller budgets and increased modulation despite opposition from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and every single farming stakeholder group. Ideas were discussed to keep up NSA pressure in this area.
Horsemeat dominates NFU conference.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and NSA Chairman John Geldard both attended the NFU conference on Wednesday and Thursday (27th and 28th February) and noted the number of commitments to build sustainable transparent and trusting supply chain relationships, as a result of the horsemeat scandal. The silver-lining in the black cloud of the horsemeat situation is surely the opportunities to come out of it, and the important thing will be taking advantage of promises from retailers and trying to make sure it is not just a short-term scare that disappears quickly with everyone falling back into the same old mode.
On CAP, Phil reports: "Owen Paterson reiterated his committed to reduced CAP budgets and modulation and was seemingly blind to the real situation. He does not seem to grasp that virtually no livestock farms would be viable without Pillar One (Single Farm Payment) and Pillar Two (RDP and agri-environment schemes) and how he thinks they can get that viability from the market is baffling. In some ways his drive and determination is valuable to us, but in others not helpful at all. At least there is more talk of LFA farmers being better recognised, with increasing acknowledgement of the special public goods they provide and the fact there needs to be better ways of rewarding them."
NSA Scotland's George Milne challenges Secretary of State for Scotland.
Last week saw NSA Scotland Regional Development Officer George Milne spent the day with Michael Moore MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, visiting a family-ran upland farm in Perthshire. Mr Moore heard about the challenge facing the sheep sector (including distribution of levy money throughout the UK) from NSA Scotland, NFUS and QMS. George also specifically raised the issue of having to split older carcases and gave Mr Moore a copy of the NSA report "The complementary role of sheep in Less Favoured Areas".
Wool takes over London.
A wonderful sight will be hitting later this month with the Campaign for Wool set to transform Somerset House in central London into 'Wool House' to show all the different ways wool can be used for home furnishings, fashion and top-notch design projects. NSA is supporting the project by sourcing live sheep for visitors to see alongside the wool exhibits, and hopes the showcase will turn increase awareness of the sheep and wool sectors. If you happen to be visiting London on 13th-24th March (sheep present 14th-16th) please come and see us - admission is completely free of charge between 10am and 6pm.
VOLUNTEER NEEDED: Given we are taking sheep into the centre of London, the exhibition at Wool House on 14th-16th March will require people familiar with sheep to be present the entire time - not only to watch the sheep but also answer all the questions visitors will have about sheep farming. We particularly need a volunteer for Saturday 16th March and will pay all travel costs and related expenses for them to get to London for the day (10am-6pm). If you would like to help out, or know someone who would, please email email@example.com ASAP.
Future plans for Mutton Renaissance.
Also during the week of 'Wool House', a Mutton Renaissance day is being held on Monday 18th March at the Innholders Hall, 30 College Street, London, EC4R 2RH. The event will be looking at ways forward for the Mutton Renaissance and will include a review and discussion of the research programme carried out into the operation of the mutton supply line by England Marketing. There will also be an excellent lunch under the direction of Herbert Berger, a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts. Pre-booking is essential - call 01684 899255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emergency authorisation granted for bracken control.
Confirmation came on Wednesday (27th February) that Asulam products will be permitted for use this summer, under emergency authorisation permits. Authorisation will have to be sought each year and in 2013 can be issued from 20th May, for spraying from 1st July to 16th September. Anyone wishing to seek authorisation should contact their local asulam distributor; more information can be found at www.brackencontrol.co.uk.
15th February 2013 - NSA Members' Update
Big promotion of English meat this weekend - and massive boost to Scottish lamb on the way.
Look out for promotion of British meat in your newspaper this weekend, as both Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) and NFU have paid for adverts to appear across the national press. This is in direct response to the horsemeat scandal and the adverts are designed to reassure consumers that products carrying the Red Tractor logo are traceable and trustworthy. The RTA adverts, which carry the Red Tractor, Quality Standard English Beef and Quality Standard English Lamb logo, states: "Now more than ever, it's important to know the meat you're buying comes from a trusted source. All fresh beef, lamb, pork or bacon that carries the Red Tractor or Quality Standard labels meets high production standards and is fully traceable back to independently inspected farms in the UK. It's the easiest way to be sure of the provenance of the meat you're buying."
And in Scotland, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead's promise of £250,000 to promote Scotch Lamb has been confirmed with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) now having funding for addition lamb promotion. This is in direct response to pressure from the sheep sector (including a one-to-one meeting with NSA Scotland and a cross-industry meeting chaired by NSA Scotland) for Mr Lochhead to support lamb producers struggling with low farmgate prices. A further boost has been provided by Mr Lochhead with the promise of another £750,000 in the future, to promote Scotch Lamb, Scotch Beef and Scotch Pork.
Take action on liver fluke NOW to minimise losses.
The number of thin ewes about has prompted SCOPS to urge farmers to take immediate action. Peter Baber, sheep farmer and SCOPS chairman, says: "While there are a number of reasons why ewes may be thin, a liver fluke burden is still a major risk factor. The challenge from high levels of liver fluke on pasture continued throughout the first two months of 2013 and many farmers seem unaware that if sheep are put back on high risk pastures they will need to be re-treated with a flukicide five to six weeks later to avoid losses. This means treatments are required more frequently than farmers are used to and SCOPS suspects that there is also confusion because some products used are persistent against worms, but not against liver fluke."
Advice from SCOPS:-
Check ewe body condition and identify thin ewes NOW. Look for symptoms such as bottle jaw.
Segregate thin ewes and increase feed levels according to a forage analysis. Even though treatment may have removed the parasites, some ewes will have badly damaged livers and will need additional inputs to get them through lambing.
Follow up any sheep going direct to an abattoir. Ask for feedback and if livers are rejected, find out why.
Investigate losses and other possible causes of thin ewes - ask your vet to carry out post mortem examinations on deaths and discuss actions to minimise losses in the run up to lambing.
Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up to date; Black Disease is a major risk where livers have been damaged by fluke.
SCOPS also says farmers need to start planning ahead now to minimise the impact of liver fluke next season:-
Reduce the amount of pasture contamination this spring by using a treatment that kills any adult liver fluke that have survived in the sheep. Consult your vet or adviser to make sure you choose the right product.
Implement management controls where possible. These include identifying the high risk areas on the farm and putting measures in place that will avoid them. Practical steps include fencing off wet areas and attending to leaking troughs, pipes and drainage.
Plan to test that your flukicide is working. On high risk farms where triclabendazole (TCBZ) has been heavily relied on it is vital to check that it is still working effectively. While there is some resistance to this treatment it remains an important weapon against immature fluke and SCOPS is concerned that many people have mistaken re-infection this winter with treatment failure.
More information can be found at www.scops.org.uk.
NSA Northern Region welcomes a new Chairman and recognises a stalwart of the industry.
The NSA Northern Region AGM on Wednesday evening (13th February) saw Geoff Lawn complete his two years as regional Chairman and hand over the reins to Adam Watson of Brampton, Northumberland. Mr Watson is a keen supporter of sheep genetics and the next generation of producers; he appeared in Farmers Guardian last week, talking about his role as NSA North Sheep 2013 Chairman - read the article here.
Also at the AGM, the T.I. Allinson Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the sheep industry in the North of England went to auctioneer Stuart Bell. His nomination from the North of England Mule Sheep Association said: "Held in high regard as an auctioneer, valuer, advisor, judge and stockman, Stuart has proven his trade by working his way through the industry, gaining the respect of his clients, colleagues, friends and associations and show a dedication few could conceive." Full the full citation here.
Positive visit to UK by French supermarket.
A group of 10 delegates from supermarket chain Intermarche (the largest supermarket chain in Europe with 1,800 stores) and processor SVA Jean Roze have spent three days visiting processors, producers and butchers, discussing UK lamb production and new cutting techniques. France remains the largest export market for UK lamb (taking around 60% of our exports) and it is hoped the trip, organised by Eblex, with strengthen this market further.
Sheep producers urged to take up performance recording.
There were firm words from Stuart Annand of Quality Meat Scotland this week when he urged more farmers to take up performance recording. He said: "The opportunity for increasing returns lies inside the farm gate of every flock, regardless of farm type or breed. Whether your motivation is for better replacement ewe lambs or simply heavier store/prime lambs, there is an EBV which, when correctly applied, will hasten your progress towards profitable, sustainable lamb production." Find out more at www.scottishsheepstrategy.org.
Two university students looking for on-farm placements – can you help?
Craig Massie is at Harper Adams University and looking for a paid work placement on a large-scale sheep and arable farm (preferably lowland) for a minimum of 12 months between July 2013 and September 2014. Craig says: "I’m from a 280ha working farm and have experience of a 900 Texel-cross flock, arable, pig production and some beef. I feel experience of sheep production and arable on a larger scale than what I have on the family farm would be very beneficial." Craig is happy to consider placements anywhere in the UK and can be contacted at email@example.com or 07713 132528.
Tomas Richards is studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Aberystwyth University and is looking for a work placement (preferably paid) on a large sheep farm with a focus on breeding and genetics. He is looking for a placement from January to September 2014 anywhere in the UK, but will require accommodation if travelling any distance from his home in north Herefordshire. Tomas has some experience working with sheep and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07800 832768.
Request for farmers in NSA Northern region to help with university dissertation.
Northumbria University student Leanne Defty is looking for help with a project on organic versus non-organic farming. She needs both conventional and organic farmers to fill in her 10-minutes questionnaire at www.surveymonkey.com/s/farmingdissertationsurvey to help her investigate why prompts farmers to choose one method of farming other another. Anyone wishing to contact Leanne directly can do so at email@example.com.
8th February 2013 - NSA Members' Update
NSA Cymru/Wales meets with Welsh Deputy Minister
A small delegation from NSA Cymru/Wales met yesterday with Alun Davies, Wales’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and European Programmes. Well over an hour was spent discussing current issues around the sheep industry in Wales and future CAP reform options. The Minister started by demonstrating a clear understanding that food production and sheep farming is part of the fabric of Wales and the Welsh economy. The sheep sector contributes 20% of the gross agricultural output of Wales, and its value goes far beyond its financial worth. Ensuring its future success is a key focus of policy, research, knowledge transfer, and market development activities.
Two priority areas of discussion for NSA included 1) recognition of the many public goods that come from sheep, particularly in LFA type regions, given the ongoing tensions between stocking levels and ‘habitat management schemes’, and even the removal of stock from some upland and common grazing areas; and 2) NSA proposals for an Animal Health Scheme as part of the RDP.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We were grateful for the time given to us by the Minister. While it was a good opportunity to catch up on a wide range of issues the purpose of the meeting was to discuss changing policy drivers and the need to increase efficient and resource friendly production while protecting our environment – but recognising that sheep farming has been right at the centre of the formation of Wales’s landscape and ecology and should be in the future. The Minister was very accepting of our views and agreed that the type of scheme we were proposing had the potential to help take livestock farmers in the direction it needed to go.”
Legacy of liver fluke is evident in thin ewes.
NSA and other organisations and individuals involved in SCOPS met on Wednesday (6th February) and liver fluke was once again high on the agenda. Understanding of the lack of persistency of flukicides are raised again as an issue, with some producers not appreciating that flukicides only kill fluke in the animal at the time it is treated and do not protect it from picking any more up as soon as it returns to graze fluke-infected pasture. Information can be found on the SCOPS website by clicking here, but we urge you to talk to your vet if you have any specific questions or concerns about your flock.
The legacy of the unprecedented fluke challenge is evident in fields and lambing sheds all around the country, with ewes approaching lambing time in less than ideal body condition. With this in mind SRUC (Scotland’s Rural University College, previously SAC) issued advice this week from Dr John Vipond. His tips included:-
Split ewes into separate groups according to their condition score (taking into consideration, if your scan, whether they are carrying one lamb or multiples).
Make it as easy as possible for sheep to feed – don’t let old feed lie around and remember thin ewes, first time lambers and shy feeders should be given extra space.
Check the dry matter of feed and encourage intakes of poor silages by adding 0.5kg per tonne of sugar beet pulp pellets, or putting molasses on top. High protein additives like distillers dark grains can help low protein hay or straw, but any changes to the diets should be made gradually and not upset the rumen.
Remember the over-fat ewes too and give them only the amount of silage they can clear up in a few hours, or replace silage with straw at weekends.
Dr Vipond reminds farmers of the importance of the last six weeks of pregnancy: “It is when around 75% of lamb birth weight is deposited. The demand for nutrients, along with the production of colostrum and the growth of the lamb’s birth coat, puts a great strain on the ewes’ protein reserves. Supplementary protein is important for all ewes but especially thin ones. It must be digestible undegradable protein (DUP) to be effective. Consider feeding an extra 100g of soya bean meal per lamb carried per day for the last three weeks of pregnancy. It also provides energy, so concentrate levels can be reduced accordingly.”
Also on the fluke theme, there was also a real blow for milk producers (sheep and cattle) this week with the announcement of an EU ban on administering a flukicide to animals producing milk for the food chain, even during their dry period. Our understanding is that treatment is still permitted in specific scenarios (and that any product currently held in stock can still be used on milk animals) so it is important that anyone affected contacts their vet to discuss options.
Request for NSA members to give their views on sheep identification – and prizes on offer!
NSA member Diana Willoughby is doing a PhD at Exeter University studying the effect of legislation on the UK sheep and goat industry, specifically regarding electronic ear tags and individual identification. She would very much appreciate fellow members completing her survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2RDZ5GK and is offering an incentive in the form of £50 prizes for randomly selected farmers who fill it in. Please direct any questions to Diana on 07432673140 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She says: “Please help! Your views are important and the results will be used to inform the National Sheep Association and farming unions who are still negotiating with Defra to reduce the impact of the legislation on owners.”
News from the levy boards – research of the Halal market, celebrity endorsement of Scotch lamb and positive news about red meat consumption.
Eblex is starting new research in March into the Halal meat market, as a result of the Office of National Statistics 2011 Census highlighting a 1.2m growth in the Muslim population in the decade since 2001, making it the second largest religious group in England and Wales, representing 2.7m people (4.8% of the population). Eblex will look at issues including how and where Muslim consumers shop for meat, which species and cuts they buy most frequently and what influences the decision of where to shop.
Scottish TV weather presenter Cat Cubie has been promoting Scotch lamb and sympathising with farmers about the challenges they have been facing as a result of the exceptionally wet conditions. As well as spending time in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, this week with Scottish sheep farmer Martin Kennedy, the TV and radio celebrity will soon be meeting some of Scotland’s top butchers and chefs to hear more about how to prepare a range of simple, delicious Scotch Lamb dishes.
Making a nice change from all the negative stories about eating red meat, a paper funded by Eblex and the British Pig Executive (Bpex) is due to appear in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin saying red meat plays a vital role in human nutrition throughout our lives. A team of experts studied data from 103 previous scientific papers and concluded that including red meat as a staple of your diet, whatever your age, can help cut the gap between recommended intakes of essential minerals and the current lower rates for many people, while helping to boost the immune system and stimulate cognitive function. Find out more here.
Spot the deliberate mistake?!
Many of you will have noticed the mistake in last Weekly Update, in that the Farmers Club is of course based in London and not Ludlow. The fault lies in the writer of that particular paragraph visiting South Shropshire far more often than London! Apologies for any confusion.
1sth February 2013 - NSA Members' Update
'Glimmer of light' for lamb price.
NSA is watching market prices carefully and recognising that they are not where they should be in order to even cover costs. This week has shown a glimmer of light with prices having risen very slightly, and this is particularly encouraging when you consider numbers sold have been slightly higher too. The situation is particularly bad for lighter hill type lambs and there is little respite from the poor prices and few easy options for the farmers. The wet weather and snow, along with limited abattoir slot availability, has contributed to a backlog of lambs on farm and I guess the forecast for weather and market alike is unsettled and turbulent, although brighter times will surely come.
NSA and NFU meet with potential providers of the England Sheep Movements Database.
Collaborative working makes sense in so many ways and it was good to be part of a joint NSA/NFU meeting on Monday (28th January) where a group representing both organisations met with all the interested bidders for the England sheep movements database tender. In all, four companies had the opportunity to explain their approach to the tender and to ask and receive questions from industry with the hope that their tenders will reflect sheep farmers' interests and needs, including ensuring no additional costs for reporting statutory information. Bids have to be submitted by 6th March with Defra's decision following on from then. Both NSA and NFU have made it clear that we will work constructively with the future provider to ensure the database is as straightforward and practical as possible whilst giving the industry maximum protection and ensuring safe governance of information held.
NSA continue to fight on CAP reform.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and Chairman John Geldard took the opportunity of a meeting with Owen Paterson's Senior Adviser in Nobel House on Tuesday (29th January). This made a good opportunity to get our views across regarding his lobbying position on CAP reform and to emphasise the importance of both First and Second Pillar payments to the precarious viability of many sheep farms. We also had the opportunity to impress on him how this last season has highlighted our vulnerability in terms of food security and that, for agriculture to optimise its contribution to economic growth, the Government must play its part in reducing red tape and investing in maintaining infrastructure such as drainage ditches and rivers.
We also explained our proposals for the potential Animal Health Scheme under RDP (Pillar Two) and reinforced our view that this scheme has the potential to shift CAP drivers closer to our political and social needs - resource efficient and climate friendly food production while maintaining and enhancing our environment.
This week also saw Wales open a consultation period on the future of the RDP. While NSA will be responding to that consultation we have also tabled our proposal of the Animal Health scheme to the Welsh Government, and have engaged with the majority of stakeholders who sit on the Welsh Government's Animal Health and Welfare Steering Group. Work will continue in this area, hopefully gaining widespread acceptance of the Animal Health Scheme as it is a scheme would see money in farmers' pockets (rather than the alternative proposal of groups accessing RDP funding to deliver training programmes and schemes for farmers instead).
NSA Vice Presidents come together to discuss top sheep sector issues.
The NSA has a number of Vice Presidents, who have traditionally been previous Chairmen of NSA but also include individuals who have been nominated and approved at AGMs. They therefore have deep knowledge and long involvement in the association and it was a great occasion on Wednesday (30th January) to have many of them meet together at the Farmers Club in Ludlow, led by NSA President the Duke of Montrose.
As you would expect with the depth of knowledge within the room, there were some very detailed discussions around some of the more difficult issues we need to address on behalf of the sheep industry. The meeting started with a review of NSA activities over the last year and went on to identify work that was needed to address barriers to the sector. This included:-
TSEs, scrapie and SRM controls, particularly when no risk has ever been identified and we are seeing cattle controls being relaxed
Sheep scab, acknowledging that this has become a bigger issue for the industry and we need to encourage best practice as widely as possible well, as put pressure on those who should be enforcing existing controls
Issues around differing policy and regulation due to national devolution, including the share of red meat levies
The impending new EU Animal Health law.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: "This was a valuable get together that will result in pushing forward in these areas - even if we have to accept that progress will never be as fast as we might like."
Deadline extended to fill in British Sheep Breed Survey.
For anyone who did not fill in the 2012 British Sheep Breed Survey, the deadline has been extended to 28th February. This survey will provide vital information for the industry so we do urge you to fill it in. If you've lost the paperwork, visit the Signet website by clicking here. Poppy Frater, EBLEX livestock scientist says: "We're very grateful to the 12,000 producers who have completed the survey so far. However, we're keen that as many flocks as possible are represented, so we have decided to extend the deadline to the end of February. Ouessant ewes and Beltex-Soay crosses have been among the surprises so far, so the results are guaranteed to make interesting reading!"
New tools on offer from Eblex - data on competitor countries and carbon footprint calculator.
Eblex has extended its website with reports from the major nations that produce, consume and trade sheep and beef products. The reports provide information on livestock populations, slaughtering and production, trade in products and live animals, prices and outlooks, for countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Australia and France. These reports replace the biannual International Meat Market Review and will be updated each time new information becomes available. Click here to find them.
Also click here to find Eblex's new Sheep Carbon Footprint Tool, created in partnership with the E-CO2 Project, and designed to help lamb producers find the where the most efficient gains can be made in cutting the environmental impact of their own sheep enterprise. Users can input information on fertiliser use, feed per lamb and daily liveweight gain to see their current carbon footprint and then manipulate the values to see, for instance, how their footprint would be affected if they managed to get a greater daily liveweight gain or reduced fertiliser use. The online carbon calculator tool is free to use, but a log-in identity does need to be created by each user the first time they access it.
Money-making opportunity for sheep farmers with fields near Cheltenham Festival.
We have been contacted by a company who would like to investigate promotional opportunities with sheep farmers who have fields next to roads that visitors use when travelling to and from Cheltenham Festival. If you farm in this area, or know anyone who does, please contact Clemmie on email@example.com, 02077 362494 or 07729 042218.
NSA regions are all set for this summer's sheep events.
There will be five NSA Sheep Events this summer and all five organising committees are working hard to put on fantastic events in their area. This week the NSA North Sheep committee announced the appointment of Heather Stoney as Assistant Organiser, to compliment the work of Julie Sedgewick by assisting with pre-show logistics and the organisation of many of the show classes. These will include stockjudging, lamb selection, NSA North Sheep Young Shepherd of the Year, Ready Steady Cook, a new sheep shearing competition, demonstrations of rural crafts and a traditional farmers market and craft stalls. The dates of the five events are:-
NSA Welsh Sheep. Tuesday 21st May at Beili Ficer Farm, Llansawel, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 7JT. More information here.
NSA Highland Sheep. Thursday 30th May at Dingwall Mart, Dingwall, Ross-shire, IV15 9TP. More information here.
NSA North Sheep. Wednesday 5th June at Crimple Head Farm, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1QT. More information here.
NSA Sheep South West. Tuesday 11th June at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ. More information here.
NSA Sheep Northern Ireland. Monday 1st July at Ballymena Market, Woodside Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, BT42 4HX. Email Edward Adamson for more information by clicking here.
As we look forward to the summer's events, don’t forget all the pictures from NSA Central Region's Winter Fair last week can be found by clicking here.
25th January 2013 - NSA Members' Update
NSA Central Region Winter Fair celebrates young people in the sheep industry.
The NSA Central Region Winter Fair, held at Bakewell Agricultural Centre yesterday (24th January), proved to be a big success despite the wintery weather conditions. Three separate competitions for young people added to the positive atmosphere of the day and full congratulations must go to the NSA Central Region and the event organisers for putting such a great event on. It was a particularly good day for Ellen Helliwell, who proved her shepherding abilities by taking the Overall and Under 21 titles in the Young Shepherd Competition. For full results click here, and find more on the event's seminars later in this Weekly Update email.
Significant step forward in removing EID from cross compliance.
MEPs voted this week to remove sheep EID from cross compliance. Although there is still some way to go before this might be implemented it is a significant step forward and is evidence that the work of NSA and other farming bodies has an impact and that policy makers do listen to reason.The Agriculture Committee in Brussels backed a proposal from a German MEP to remove EID from cross compliance rules when voting on amendments to the CAP reform package on Wednesday and Thursday this week. The European Commission will now have to reconsider their tough stance before final negotiations take place in March.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said: "We should not underestimate the work that has gone on to get us to this position - work to provide evidence of the level of practical accuracy of EID technology and work to convince key influencers that cross compliance penalties based on EID failures is unfair and risks damaging the success of the sheep industry. This is a very welcome step forward but we need to keep up our work and we will not get to the finish line until EID is not associated with cross compliance penalties."
George Milne, Development Officer for NSA Scotland, said: "There were a number of very successful outcomes for the sheep sector as a result of the votes that took place in Brussels, but one which is of major interest to sheep farmers is with regard to EID of sheep. MEPs must be congratulated for taking this decision, as although it still has to be approved by the full parliament, it is a significant step forward. If this is fully approved it will bring a huge relief to farmers across the country who become extremely concerned about trying to achieve an unrealistic target of 100% accuracy in recording sheep movements."
Thoughts for those affected by the threat of closure at Welsh Country Foods.
With the future of the Welsh Country Foods plant on Anglesey hanging in the balance, and the future of several hundred jobs at threat, the NSA is concerned that the sheep industry and the businesses that surround it are so locally vulnerable to decisions made nationally. The reasons behind Asda's decision to move their supply away from Welsh Country Foods are for them, but the wider impacts that come from this decision are getting clearer by the day and our thoughts go to the people and families whose livelihoods are now at risk. We are where we are with abattoirs and slaughtering capacity (and levy collection too), and there would be few who had not questioned the 'unintended consequences' of our slaughtering becoming so centralised and rationalised. While in an ideal world the entire supply chain would use triple bottom line accounting of the effects of their decisions, the reality is somewhat lacking.
NSA Scotland meets Richard Lochhead to discuss action on lamb prices.
Reporting on a meeting between NSA Scotland and Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead on Wednesday (23rd January), which discussed a better deal for the sheep industry by repatriating levy funds and increasing lamb consumption in Scotland, George Milne says: "We had a very constructive and proactive meeting to look at the options for both short term and long term prices and the market potential. For the immediate situation we welcomed the Cabinet Secretary's offer to look at a funding package to explore a number of initiatives to help the current desperately low prices. One option here would be to have a credit assurance scheme to underpin export markets. This would significantly help the sales of lamb into other EU countries, such as Spain and Portugal, and may well lead to new markets for Scotch Lamb elsewhere in Europe."
Commenting on the longer term Jimmy Sinclair, NSA Scotland Chairman, says: "We will be holding a joint meeting with NFUS and QMS next week to set up a three-year plan for the sheep sector in order to try and avoid these low prices which farmers have had to experience over the last few months. The aim of this would be to see Scotch Lamb recognised worldwide in the same way as Scotch Beef, Scotch Salmon and Scotch Whisky."
Huge appetite for seminars at NSA Central Region Winter Fair.
The four seminars at the NSA event yesterday (24th January) attracted incredible interest, with standing room only a several points through the day. Phil Stocker reports on the two seminars he was involved in:-
The CAP reform seminar has three speakers:-
David Mottershead, Defra's lead negotiator on Pillar One (Single Farm Payments) in the EU updated delegates on progress in CAP negotiations, saying there was still a lot has to be decided, including the budget, and so it was not accepted that the earliest implementation could be January 2015 (not the originally plan for January 2014). The detail continues to include greening, capping of payments and the definition of active farmers, all of which are hugely influential for the UK.
Peter Garbutt spoke about the position and concerns over some of the proposals and emphasised the most important issue was protecting the current level of Pillar One payments and avoiding further modulation of funds to Pillar Two (RDP).
Phil Stocker outlined NSA proposals for a potential Animal Health Scheme as part of Pillar Twp, making the case that neither Pillar One or Pillar Two currently incentivize what we need to see - i.e. quality, efficient and resource-friendly (climate friendly) production.
Discussion focused around the need for incentives for young people and the case that the problem was not attracting young people into agriculture but making sure there are steps on the ladder exist for them. The case was also strongly made that keeping money within the farming community led to greater economic activity, which had wider benefits. This brought up the definition of an 'active farmer' and if it was right that substantial amounts of CAP monies went to shareholders of national companies not associated with primary farming, or to landowners that were not involved in productive agriculture.
The 'Landscapes, leisure, and livestock - have we got the balance right?'seminar focuses on whether we could move to a better balance of farming activity and stocking levels alongside providing the wide basket of public goods that are expected by society. Although there is still work to do, particularly in ensuring better regional consistency of approaches, it seems to tide is turning with our conservation bodies and agencies agreeing farming and farmers are a central part of the attraction of these areas, and also central to the successful future management. Will we ever get the balance right? Probably not for everyone all of the time, but public needs and wants can change remarkably quickly and the farming community has always demonstrated resilience and innovation whatever is asked of them. The mood of delegates seemed to agree that the balance of environment and farming was completely interdependent and intertwined - and that the economic benefits of greater environmental recognition would continue to be important in the future. There does seems to be a far better acceptance that sheep farming has been a central part of the ecology of upland areas and that stocking level reductions and removal have gone too far in many cases, but it is also clear there are always opportunities to do more to protect environments and improve water and wildlife habitats. The areas of contention were more in the areas of tenancy agreements, moves towards shorter term agreements and issues of who receives the agri-environment scheme payments. For a while the seminar went in the direction of wildlife management and protected status of species, in particular badgers and their unrecognised effect on ground nesting birds - but that is another subject entirely ....
Ensure clean stock to avoid additional cost at slaughter.
Eblex has issued a reminder to present only clean, dry stock for slaughter or risk paying penalties to processors, who have to meet strict Food Standard Agency rules and will put in place additional controls if necessary (such as clipping animals pre-slaughter or operating on a reduced kill line speed). Eblex recommends switching stock to a drier ration and providing adequate straw prior to slaughter. Visible signs of dirt can also be removed by clipping as a final consideration. Earlier in the process, sheep can be dagged before being introduced to finishing diets.
Sheep farmer and NSA member takes the reins at Newton Rigg College.
This week saw official publication of Matt Bagley's appointment as the new Head of Agriculture at Newton Rigg College. He will oversee land-based courses in agriculture, countryside management, gamekeeping, forestry, horticulture and engineering, having previously been Programme Leader for the Agriculture and Sheep Unit at Reaseheath College. Matt sits on the NSA Central Region and the NSA English Committee and will continue to be active in this region for the time being, despite Newton Rigg's location in Cumbria.
Commenting on his new role, Matt said: "With the pressures of providing food for the world's growing population, the challenges for tomorrow's farmers cannot be underestimated. Working with young people to provide first class education across the land-based sector is not only a privilege but vital to the success of Britain's agricultural industry and efficient food production." Newton Rigg has recently initiated a £3m investment in the campus and the college farms, including a new dairy unit and re-introduction of a dairy herd, and new sheep housing for Low Beckside Farm 1,100 breeding ewes. Newton Rigg is also the National Centre for Uplands.
NSA EVENTS DIARY (all 2013 NSA events, including next year's ram sales can be found by clicking here)
NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Plough, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Panel to include speakers from NSA, BWMB and Dunbia; open to members and non-members; refreshments available. Details from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NSA NI Lambing Meeting: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Valley Hotel, Fivemiletown. Open to members and non-members.
NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.
NSA Cymru/Wales AGM: Monday 18th February, 2pm at Hafod Y Hendre on the Royal Welsh Showground, followed by Prof. E. Wynne Jones (OBE, FRAgS) speaking about ‘How will CAP Reform affect sheep farming in the future? What kind of shepherd will there be in 20 years’ time?’ Open to members and non-members. Click here for an agenda.
NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 20th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre.
NSA Scotland AGM and Dinner: Saturday 2nd March at Dunblane Hydro, Stirling - 4pm for the AGM, 7pm for the Dinner. Tickets (£30+VAT) available from Caroline Orr on 07966 590251 or email@example.com.
21st December 2012 - NSA Members Update
A look at the lamb market in the festive season, from Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive.
Finished lamb prices are in the doldrums with a backlog now building up and affecting store values too. Deadweight prices currently being offered should be close to 3.40p-3.45p/kg dw for good spec lambs and anything less than that should be questioned. Upland wether lambs are being reported at giveaway prices, cull ewes just as bad, and anything members can do to hold these without going out of spec or dramatically increasing costs must make sense.
So given a hungry world and reported food inflation, where is it all going wrong? Well two things are clearly behind the current price malaise; the weather having resulted in the seasonal high tide of lamb sales being later than usual and farmers being forced to sell because of a lack of keep, combined with many underfinished lambs being taken on and finished with a bit of hard feed; and then this combining with NZ lamb hitting our shores. Disappointingly we have had many reports of supermarket offerings being heavily biased towards imported lamb with UK lamb seeing little shelf space, and even reports of supermarket staff who are telling questioning customers that 'UK lamb is out of season'.It is all very well moaning, but what can we do?
According to official data, lamb sales have been up over the last quarter so the key has to be to encourage consumers to choose UK lamb and for supermarkets to sell it in preference. We can help do this at a NSA level but all members (and their wives or husbands) can help too by asking their local supermarkets where the UK lamb is, and why do we need so much imported lamb when UK lamb is plentiful at this time of year, and it comes with lower food miles and all the social, landscape, and environmental benefits that we know it delivers? If the major retailers are serious about building a sustainable supply of UK lamb based on sustainable farming then prices need to be above costs of production, and £3.45 doesn't cut it for the vast majority.
I know it's not easy, but anything that can be done at a farm level to market lambs in a more regimented way and more evenly through the year will help the supply chain and probably help the bottom line too.
Finally, for the post-Christmas market keep focused on hitting the weight and grade specifications through planned feeding and frequent handling - out of spec lambs don't usually pay and they also disrupt the wider market.
Data suggests auction marts are not as 'stressful' as sometimes claimed.
An event at Bristol University on Monday (17th December) presented data on the stress caused by transport to different aged sheep, and while the final figures will not be published until next spring, they appear to indicate that sheep are incredibly robust when it comes to transportation and time in auction marts. Discussion by various stakeholders at the event concluded that addition rules and regulations are not needed, but rather enforcement of current laws surrounding transport (as NSA argued at the time of the Ramsgate incident).
Support for NSA suggestion of collection Schmallenberg data.
We have received a great deal of positive feedback from last week's Weekly Update, in which we suggested that the industry should overcome the inability of AHVLA to collect information on Schmallenberg and do it ourselves. We are continuing to work on this and will know more in the New Year. In the meantime, we have received interesting information from XLVets and SAC.
XLVets says activity between 49 vet practices has allowed them to test bulk milk samples from up and down the UK and confirm SBV is 'widespread across most parts of the UK'. Charles Lambert of XLVets says: "The provisional results confirm the virus is widespread across most parts of the UK. Scotland remains largely clear and most of England and Wales have returned strongly positive samples, but with a more variable pattern in the far north of England. This patchy pattern in Northern England probably reflected local weather and the numbers of midges blown in by particular winds." XLVets says farmers should consider that deformities might be present, causing lambing and calving difficulties, and discuss with their vet what practical measures can be taken in advance.
Brian Hosie of SAC says "Our vet labs in Scotland have received many blood samples from cattle and sheep for testing for Schmallenberg virus antibody in the past few months. Many of those from England and Wales are seropositive for SBV antibody. All of the positive sera from animals in Scotland are from animals imported from England, Wales and the Netherlands. It might be worth considering the merit of pre-testing animals imported from the continent. We also have examined aborted and stillborn foetuses for evidence of SBV with the assistance of colleagues in Moredun. So far all have been negative for SBV. "This just goes to show that SBV is not the only thing to cause deformities, so please consider testing where appropriate.
Warning of scam by fraudsters targeting Single Farm Payments
Please be aware that fraudsters are operating at this time of year, in the knowledge that many farmers have received large deposits into their accounts for Single Farm Payments. The fraudsters tend to pretend to be the fraud department from you bank, so be on guard. RPA and banks have issued the following advice:
- Remember your bank will never request your full online password information.
- Banks would not request a token response used to log on to your online account.
- Your bank will not ask you to make a payment over the phone by using your online account.
- Be aware that if your bank does request you to call back, you need to ensure that you can hear a dial tone first or use a mobile to phone the bank directly (as the phone line may be held open by the fraudster).
- If you have any concerns, contact your bank.
Farmers in England have until 31st December to return annual return (later deadlines for Wales, Scotland and NI).
All producers should have now received their 2012 Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory forms, which carries a legal obligation to be completed and returned by 31st December (England), 7th January (Northern Ireland) or 31st January (Wales and Scotland). Defra has asked NSA to remind members that not sending in a completed annual inventory form does increase the risk that a keeper will be selected for a cross compliance inspection.
Advice for lambing in wet weather.
Rhidian Jones, SAC Sheep and Beef Specialist, has prepared a list of ideas to consider when faced with wet weather at lambing time:-
- Sell store cattle two to three months earlier to free up pens.
- Put mini mounds of woodchips in sheltered areas of fields to get lambs out of lying water.
- Use empty silage clamps for ewes and lambs or, if they have no roof, moving yearling cattle or dry cows here so indoor pens can be used for ewes and lambs. Or it may be possible to use plastic sheets or tarpaulins to fashion temporary roofs.
- Winter shear ewes to allow indoor stocking rates to be increased and make more room for ewes with lambs at foot.
- Use plastic lamb macs - and secure a supply now, in case they sell out later.
- Sell ewes with lambs at foot as a way to reduce grazing pressure in poor conditions (the sense of this will depend of the trade next year).
- Feed ewes with a good source of DUP in late pregnancy to ensure they have plenty of high quality colostrum and lambs are strong and on their feet and sucking quickly. Having a full belly and being on their feet is the best insulation a lamb can have!
Short-notice plea for sheep in Dorset for BBC filming on 30th December.
BBC Inside Out is doing report on the author Thomas Hardy and wants to film some sheep in Dorset on 30th December, along with a farmer or shepherd willing to talk about how farming has changed in recent decades. If you are available please contact Charlotte Westgate directly - 07720 671215.
Two new appointments ahead of the New Year.
Two people with new jobs for 2013 are John Macfarlane, director of the Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group and now Chairman of XLVets, and Liz Bowles, a farmer from Cullompton in Devon and now President of the Shropshire Sheep Breeders' Association.
Did you miss our list of requests/offers for work placements last week?! Second chance to offer your help or receive some:-
- Many NSA members have added their details to our 'Lambing List', which has been sent out to NSA student members and others, meaning members should soon get vet students and other volunteers ringing up looking for work experience at lambing time. The universities and colleges will give the list to students after the Christmas holidays, so more enquiries should follow then too. If any members know of someone looking for work at lambing time, please ask them to email firstname.lastname@example.org and request the 'Lambing List'.
- We have also had a request to find work placements for six French students in Wales for three weeks in February. They will come individually or in pairs (depending on the farmer's preference), mostly come from agricultural backgrounds and all have an active interest in sheep farming. They are aged 16-18 and require no payment, just accommodation and food. Anyone in Wales or the Borders should email email@example.com if they are able to offer a placement.
- A 20-year-old Swedish girl - Julia Pettersson - is looking to come to the UK in March/April and stay for the summer or 'as long as someone wants me for'! She has some experience and two working dogs. She says: "I would like to come to a place with heart and a will to pass on knowledge. I'm eager to learn and not afraid to work hard. I have a lot to give and would be so grateful for an opportunity. I only require accommodation and food." Contact Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NSA has a number of overseas members and one such couple - John and Eadie Steele - are inviting someone from the UK to join them in Canada for a March-November placement, with the change of longer-term employment for the right candidate. All the details are at www.shepherdschoice.ca/events.html.
NSA EVENTS DIARY (all 2013 NSA events, including next year's ram sales can be found by clicking here)
NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow 1: Tuesday 22nd January, 7.30pm at the Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis. Panel to include speakers from NSA, BWMB and Dunbia; open to members and non-members; refreshments available. Details from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or email@example.com.
NSA Central Region Winter Fair: Thursday 24th January 2013 at Bakewell Auction Mart (by kind permission of Derbyshire Dales District Council). For enquiries speak to Bob and Anne Payne of the Central Region on 01142 883241 or 07803 744437, or Helen Davies, Event Organiser, on 01938 590535 or 07976 803066. Booking forms for trade stands and breed societies can be found here.
NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow 2: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Plough, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Other details as above.
NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.
NSA Cymru/Wales AGM: Monday 18th February, 2pm at Hafod Y Hendre on the Royal Welsh Showground, followed by Prof. E. Wynne Jones (OBE, FRAgS) speaking about 'How will CAP Reform affect sheep farming in the future? What kind of shepherd will there be in 20 years' time?' Open to members and non-members. Click here for an agenda.
NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 20th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre - please note this is the 20th February; the 27th February was a date circulated in error.
30th November 2012 - NSA Members' Update
Complete you annual inventory to reduce risk of cross compliance inspection.
All producers will shortly be receiving their 2012 Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory forms, which carries a legal obligation to be completed and returned by 31st December (England), 7th January (Northern Ireland) or 31st January (Wales and Scotland). Defra has asked NSA to remind members that not sending in a completed annual inventory form does increase the risk that a keeper will be selected for a cross compliance inspection.
Independent research suggests problems with EID are more likely to be caused by the reader than the eartag.
Responding to claims by farmers that EID technology does not work, the Approved Livestock Identification Manufacturers' Association (ALIDMA), which includes the majority of UK eartag manufacturers, commissioned research into the readability of EID tags in working situations. Results from the study, which was conducted independently by Adas, were presented at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on Monday (26th November).
A total of 11,352 tags were read in the study - 805 brand new tags (of which 100% read successfully), 7,633 tags in lambs in two abattoirs (of which 99.5% read) and 2,913 in lambs and shearlings on four farm (of which 98.5% read). The successful read-rates were not always a first-time read, but investigation of non-read tags often showed the tag was not faulty, drawing attention to the importance of accurate installation, set-up and maintenance of reading equipment. This might be something complicated like the use of electro-magnets on kill-lines interfering with readers at abattoirs, or something very simple like a farmer not changing the batteries in his handheld reader.
ALIDMA said it hopes the research will reassure farmers the tags they buy are reliable, but that the industry needs to act to reduce the small number of tags that do break. The research is also vital for NSA and other stakeholder groups working with Defra to argue that tolerance is needed on EID, particularly as the high read rates in the research were the result of several re-reads, something that is not possible in a working situation. ALIDMA's recommendations can be read here, and a full report will be featured in the Jan/Feb Sheep Farmer magazine.
Catherine Nakielny recognised for her contribution to the Welsh sheep sector.
Also at the Welsh Winter Fair, sheep farmer and industry consultant Catherine Nakielny was presented with the NSA Cymru/Wales Award, with Chairman David Pittendreigh praising her achievements as a farming representative, farmer and Nuffield Scholar.
As well as her role as an independent sheep consultant, and her work increasing production levels on the family farm at Talley, Carmarthenshire, Catherine sits on the NSA Welsh Committee, represents Wales on the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee, is County Chairman of Carmarthenshire FUW and Chair of the FUW's Animal Health and Welfare Committee. She is also a Wales representative for the Moredun Research Institute and a Farming Connect Rural Leadership Programme participant.
Her recent Nuffield Scholarship - called 'Maximising returns through reducing methane emissions: an opportunity for the sheep sector' - saw her travel in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia looking at the need to promote the efficiency of production and environmental benefits of sheep production when addressing the issue of methane emissions. Read more about Catherine and her scholarship here.
Other awards presented at the Welsh Winter Fair included the first farmers to pass a course on liver fluke with Dunbia, Novartis Animal Health and Lantra. The day-long courses assess participants to see how much their knowledge has increased, which Dunbia says will help farmers improve efficiency on-farm and also help Dunbia receive a more consistent product. More courses are being developed, including for grassland management.
Thanet Council removes opposition to live exports from Ramsgate.
Having suspended live exports from Ramsgate in September and then 'temporarily' reinstating trade until the outcome of a judicial review, Thanet Council has now removed all opposition and asked operators of the ship 'Joline' to drop its legal proceedings. It is not yet clear if the High Court hearing, sought by Joline's owners and transporters using the crossing to challenge the council's decision to impose the ban, will go ahead on 11th December.
Local media coverage and activity against the trade is still active, particularly since recent bad weather has forced Joline to return to port twice in the last 10 days. It has been suggested that protesters have created a great deal of pressure for Joline to sail in high winds, as the activity of protesters means the police have to be present each time the ship loads, making organising and re-organising shipments very difficult. Farmers involved in the live export of lambs at the current time report that 45kg ram lambs were making Euro120 ( £96) per head in Holland last week and high demand for store lambs was pushing prices around £20 higher than in the UK.
Society has choices to make on land use and wildlife management, says Richard Benyon MP.
Addressing an audience at Reading University last night (29th November), Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, spoke about food, farming and the countryside, saying society had choices to make regarding both land use and how we manage our wildlife. Mr Benyon, who is the MP for Newbury and also a farmer, stressed that most of our landscapes and wildlife are related to farmland and farming activity, and that we have gone too far to think a natural balance in wildlife populations was possible. Addressing the question of 'What do we want our countryside to look like in 2030?', Mr Benyon's response was clearly a vision of a more industrious countryside, with human activity contributing more to the economy and with good environmental outcomes expected. While this might chime with recent NSA work there is still a clear ambition from Ministers to reduce support to agriculture and 'release UK farmers from restraining EU policies'. Interesting thoughts indeed and, while many may agree with the general sentiments, how we get there is a challenge lacking answers.
Remember flukicides are not persistent and at-risk sheep may show clinical signs just 4-5 weeks after treatment.
NSA is receiving reports of many farmers seriously struggling with fluke, which is no surprise given the wet weather, but is causing high losses on some farms. The advice from SCOPS is, if you do not already have a fluke control plan, urgently contact your vet or prescriber to discuss one, as the traditional treatment times are just not applicable this year.
Flukicides kill fluke at the time of application, but are not 'persistent', so the minute animals graze fluke-infested pasture again they get re-infected. And fluke numbers are currently so high sheep may show clinical disease 4-5 weeks after treatment. In the autumn acute disease caused by immature fluke is most likely, meaning triclabendazole (TBZ) is the treatment of choice, unless it is not effective on your farm. Resistance to some flukicides does occur but reinfection is more common. Another reason for drenches apparently not working is underestimating the weight of the animals, especially adult ewes.
SCOPS says using a flukicide may not be enough in very badly affected areas, so move animals to dry ground if possible, or even house them. Also be aware that while rumen fluke has been diagnosed on some farms, liver fluke is still the main threat - and that if you treat rumen fluke with oxyclozanide only adult liver fluke will be killed, leaving animals at risk from acute liver fluke. Click here for the SCOPS website.
Successful lambing will rely on keeping an eye on ewe condition scores and forage quality - and modifying diets if necessary.
Variable ewe condition scores and low quality/low intake forages means action is needed now for successful spring lambing, says Dr Colin Morgan of SAC Consulting. He warns that while supplementing poor quality silage may be necessary, there is a risk of over-feeding starchy cereals or causing metabolic upsets with sudden dietary changes.
"The stressful weather combined with an increase in sheep diseases caused by parasites has meant a difficult year for ewes, so their condition scores may be lower than usual, "he says, reminding producers that ewes should lamb in March at condition score 2.5-3, or 2-2.5 if lambing at grass. "For thin ewes, feeding should start earlier at nine weeks pre-lambing. Supplementary feeding levels by lambing will need to be higher at around 0.75kg compound/cereal per day split into two feeds. Do not leave it too late, score your ewes now and make planned changes to rations."
Sales of 'cuts not carcases' has reduced drop in export sales.
The volume of lamb exported in the first nine months of this year has dropped by 6% - but the increase in bone-in and boneless cuts (from 22% to 26%) has counter-acted a 11% drop in carcase exports.
Paul Heyhoe of EBLEX/AHDB says: "While the overall volume of sheep meat exports in the first nine months of the year has fallen, largely driven by the drop in production, it has disguised some of the trends in the UK's export performance. One of the key developments continues to be the 'cuts not carcase' approach. In contrast the positive figures for exports of bone-in and boneless cuts speak for themselves, which is very encouraging."
Much talk about farm statistics - but treat figures carefully.
Confirmation by the UK Statistics Authority means the 2011-12 farm statistics are now being released, with media coverage of some aspects of the figures - for example, the BBC reported on the 23,000 female farmers now active in the UK, an increase of 6,000 compared to the number of men dropping by 5,000. But statistics must be handled with care - for example, the Welsh Government announced today (30th November) that the average farm business income for Welsh cattle and sheep farms was £34,600 (LFA) and £35,300 (lowland). This marks as increase of 16% on 2010-11 but makes no reference to rising input costs and, therefore, overall profit. Click here for more statistics.
NSA members invited to apply for a £1,000 Moredun Scholarship.
NSA members (who are all automatically associate members of the Moredun Foundation) have until 31st December to submit an application for three awards of up to £1,000 each from Moredun, offered in support of projects that may involve travel, work experience, science or the arts. More information at www.moredun.org.uk/scholarship.
NSA EVENTS DIARY
NSA South West Open Meeting: Monday 3rd December at the Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, EX17 6DF.
A meeting with three speakers, open to members and non-members and followed by a supper. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker will speak, as well as Brian Dallyn from the British Wool Marketing Board and also Bill Harper of Harpers Home Mix on the challenges facing the ewe flock during tupping and as the
Maedi Visna Accreditation Scheme
We would urge all new flocks to join the Maedi Visna Accreditation Scheme. If you have recently purchased stock then you should contact the Sheep & Goat Health Scheme, PO Box 5557, Inverness IV2 4YT, Telephone 01463 226995 for full details of the scheme.
SAC vets are urging sheep farmers who sell breeding sheep to join the Maedi Visna (MV) Accreditation Scheme, as the disease becomes more common in non-accredited flocks.
SAC Veterinary Investigation Officer Catriona Ritchie said: "Some farmers may think because MV is not widely recognised, that it is not worth joining the scheme but the incidence of MV is increasing."
So our message to sheep farmers is that you can buy from an MV-accredited flock confident in the knowledge you're not buying in the disease. In the unlikely event that there is a breakdown, early testing provides the best opportunity for eradication. By joining the scheme, your flock will benefit from regular testing."
MV can cause severe economic losses in infected sheep flocks through deaths from pneumonia and wasting and its knock-on effects such as poorer fertility, reduced milk production resulting in increased lamb losses and lower weight gains in lambs. There are also losses from the premature culling of adult sheep because of mastitis, occasionally arthritis and paralysis.
If your flock is not part of the scheme then you may like to consider joining.
Contact Sheep & Goat Health Scheme, tel : 01463 226995.
If you want to check which flocks are in the scheme then consult their website
Survey Finds MV Infection Levels Doubled in 15 years - Sheep Disease Concerns.
Scottish Agricultural College News Release Number: 12N97 Date: 10th July, 2012.
The number of flocks infected with Maedi Visna (MV) virus has doubled in a 15 year period, increasing from 1.4% to 2.8%, a survey undertaken by SAC and Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency has found. The survey is the first to look at the level of MV infection in the GB flock since 1995.
Funded by EBLEX and HCC (Meat Promotion Wales) the survey also found that the number of infected sheep has increased four-fold, while the level of infection within infected flocks has increased from 13% to 24%. In addition to the evidence showing an increase in MV, the number of flocks suffering significant economic effects due to high levels of infection has also risen in recent years. However the number of cases diagnosed is currently low, compared with other common sheep diseases.
There is no cure for MV and no vaccine to prevent or control it. Infection spreads through close contact, so intensively-managed flocks tend to have more infected sheep. By the time that signs of infection are seen, usually years after the virus has been introduced, it has reached such a high level it is very difficult to control.
Visible signs of MV are not usually seen until about half of the adult flock is infected. The key signs are loss of body condition, poorer fertility, mastitis, increased twin lamb disease, smaller and weaker lambs born, leading to increased mortality. A lower volume of and poorer quality colostrum and milk can lead to reduced lamb growth rates. Fortunately MV is not a disease that affects humans.
In heavily infected flocks an increased number of deaths in adult sheep are usually reported, often due to a secondary Pasteurella pneumonia. For example in a 500 cross-bred ewe flock, investigated by SAC, the adult mortality rate was 6% in 2010 and 8% in 2011. In just the first four months of 2012 it has reached 5%. In this flock, in a short period of six months, sixteen ewes had developed severe arthritis or hind limb paralysis, caused by MV, and had to be culled. The losses due to this increased mortality, compared to a typical flock with 3% mortality, were calculated as £10,210.
Another large, heavily-infected flock had a ewe mortality rate of 8% and was having to cull a further 70-100 ewes each year, due to mastitis resulting from MV. The flock had been experiencing a high level of mastitis for some time but it was not discovered until a few years later that MV was the underlying problem.
According to SAC vet, Catriona Ritchie
Sheep farmers in GB are fortunate the level of MV infection in the national flock is still at a relatively low level compared to countries like Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, with significant numbers of infected flocks. Undoubtedly the existence over the last three decades of the MV accreditation scheme has helped keep the infection levels in Britain's flock at a relatively low level, especially as many pedigree, terminal sire flocks are accredited free of infection. However flock owners should not be complacent. As this survey shows, levels of MV are rising."
The advice to flock owners is to purchase uninfected sheep and use the MV accreditation scheme, to try and keep infection out of flocks. Producers should be aware of the signs of MV and if they are concerned that it may be present in their flock, should discuss this with their vet. The vet can take samples and, if the disease is confirmed, can advise on how best to manage the situation. In some cases culling and restocking may be the best option.
5th October 2012 - NSA Members' Update
Availability of SBV vaccine lies in the hands of the VMD.
MSD Animal Health has pulled out all the stops to try to offer a vaccine as soon as possible, providing a dossier of information to the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) at the end of August. Applying for a provisional license rather than full marketing authorisation at this stage could allow the vaccine to gain approval in 60 days.
Ideally sheep would need to be injected with two 1ml-doses, four weeks apart before being protected, but MSD have also been trialling single dose vaccination and even vaccination of pregnant sheep, all with the aim of trying to offer some protection this season. NSA will keep you informed of developments, as we are on a knife edge as to the availability of a vaccine to help this season.
The live exports debate goes on
We are still awaiting the results of the Defra/AHVLA enquiry into the unfortunate happenings at Ramsgate port on 12th September - but since then all ports involved in live export for slaughter have suspended shippings until the findings become clear.
What has emerged is that there are serious questions over the decision to unload the sheep at the Ramsgate port where facilities are clearly inadequate. Surely it would have been possible for them to go to another local facility, manned by people used to handling sheep. There are also questions over the process of pre-loading veterinary inspection, if more than 40 sheep were actually lame by time of arrival then how were they approved pre-loading? There must be opportunities for everyone to learn from this process and ensure that this legal and valuable trade is done with the highest level of animal welfare and responsibility possible.
More than just a wooly idea.
The Campaign for Wool Council met on Monday (1st October) to discuss recent activities and those planned for the remainder of the year and into 2013. With wool week just a week away (it kicks off on 15th October) there are an impressive range of activities scheduled to promote the use of wool in clothing, interior design and the built environment.
For most this may appear a world away from what is happening with wool on the farm, but there is no doubt that it is raising interest, awareness and demand. This is mainly at the top-end of the market, but evidence suggests effects are trickling down and helping the wool price overall. More information on the Campaign and the huge range of international activities at http://www.campaignforwool.org/.
Exciting new NSA Sheep Area at Balmoral Show 2013
The NSA Northern Ireland Region is delighted to announce it is taking space at Royal Ulster Agricultural Society's 2013 Balmoral Show, providing a dedicated Sheep Area similar to those at the Royal Highland and Royal Welsh. This has been made possible by a new venue for the show in 2013, allowing enough room for a Sheep Area to be created adjacent to the sheep pens and judging rings. Dates for 2013 are 15th-17th May.
Edward Adamson, NSA NI Regional Manager says: "We plan to have a marquee split into exhibition and hospitality space for sheep breed societies and clubs, as well as a number of commercial companies relating to the sheep industry. Space is limited so I would ask that all those interested to contact me for prices and sizes as soon as possible, and definitely before Friday 14th December." Contact Edward on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07711 071290.
Impressive Farmers Weekly Awards recognise sheep farming excellence.
Phil Stocker and John Geldard represented NSA at the Farmers Weekly awards on Thursday (4th October), where Lord Sebastian Coe made for an excellent choice of compere for a highly successful evening.
The Sheep Farmer of the Year title was won by Neil Perkins of Dinas Island Farm, Pembrokeshire. The NSA offers him many congratulations, but also recognises the huge achievement of Duncan Nelless of Morpeth, Northumberland, and Charley and Andrea Walker of Buns, Scotland, for reaching the final of such a major competition.
The judge's commendation for the winner read: "If there is one farmer safeguarding his future and subsequent generations in farming then it is Neil Perkins. In 2006 he set himself a six-year strategy to create an ultimate low-cost system, and today has nearly achieved his goal."
Action required against liver fluke this autumn.
Eblex says producers need to take action against liver fluke this autumn, as the unusual weather patterns mean the risk of infection is particularly high, even on farms with no history of fluke problems.
Its advice includes:-
- Consider screening stock for the presence of fluke eggs in the dung or via blood testing. Abattoir feedback on rejected livers is also an important source of information.
- In the autumn, where there is a risk of acute liver fluke disease, triclabendazole (TCBZ) is the drug of choice, unless it has been established that there are resistant liver fluke on the farm. In this case get advice on suitable alternatives.
- Be aware of the possibility of re-infection if animals are put back on high risk grazing areas. Use management tactics such as moving stock to low risk fields, fencing off identified risk areas or housing stock. If animals remain in these areas, monitoring for infection is essential.
- Quarantine treatments for in-coming sheep are also likely to be needed due to the high risk of fluke infection this year.
- Make sure you dose correctly, do not over or under-dose. Be prepared to split groups if there is significant variation in the weight of animals in the group.
- Don't rely on chemical treatment alone - management tactics are an essential part of liver fluke control.
- Seek veterinary advice on product selection and timing, preferably as part of a regular testing and treatment protocol set down in the herd health plan.
The following is extracted from the NSA Members Update - 31 August 2012
NSA Breed Society Forum 21 Aug 2012
Check out the interesting and informative presentations from the Breed Forum last week on the Breeders Section of the Website. www.nationalsheep.org.uk
Last weeks 'Thought for the day'
My thought for the day in last week's e news prompted a response from one member who cautioned me for being cavalier when I spoke of flocks of sheep being 'super organisms' suggesting that they should be treated as such in relation to disease management and identification. The member made the point, quite correctly, that we sell and buy sheep and are frequently mixing groups. It's a complex subject to discuss in a paragraph or two and I would suggest we are both right - flocks of sheep become 'super organisms' - but when we mix them the organism changes and takes time to adapt and stabilise. This is where knowledge of what is being brought onto the farm, quarantine, quarantine treatments, and standstill periods come into play. At this time of year these are principles that can often prevent costs and losses later on.
Keep reporting sheep worrying
Members are encouraged to keep reporting cases of sheep worrying and attacks by dogs to NSA - and to encourage neighbours or contacts who may not be NSA members to report too. We are building an interesting picture and it is important to keep gathering information. To report cases please phone NSA on 01684 892661
Red Meat Training Programme and Sheep Lameness
In Wales, HCC, a member of Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Group, is looking to help farmers tackle lameness in their flocks, and in the weeks running up to slaughter, reduce carcass damage and generally improve lamb presentation for the abattoir, ie preventing liver fluke, bruising and abscesses.
They will be present with a stand and information, during September, at Markets around Wales offering one to one advice. There will also be a selection of follow up training courses during September.
2012 NSA Events & Meetings:
DON'T MISS THE LAST ONE OF FOUR
NSA Northern Ireland Region - Get advice from the experts on abortion prevention and tupping preparation. National Sheep Association Northern Ireland invite you to:
'Preventing Abortion, Preparing for Tupping.' Speakers include vets and college sheep specialists.
Tuesday, September 11, 8pm The Community Centre, Loughguile,
For details please contact Edward Adamson tel: 07711 071290.
NSA Marches Region AGM - Friday 14th September 2012 at the Ludlow Food Centre 7.00 for 7.30 start - to be followed by a meeting titled 'Local and Global Sheep Market'. This will take the form of a practical demonstration on adding value to the lamb carcase, to be followed by a second presentation reviewing the current global demands for sheep meat. For further details contact: Angela Weston, Regional Secretary email: email@example.com Tel: 01454 260220
NSA Eastern Region 27th Annual Sale of Rams - Melton Mowbray Market - Friday 21st September 2012
Entries close on Wednesday 22nd August
Tel: 01953 607860 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale 2012 - Monday 24th September
The Main Ram Sale will be held on at the Royal Welsh Showground. www.nsaramsales.co.uk
NSA Eastern Region AGM
10th October 2012 commencing at 6pm
NSA South East Region AGM
15th November 2012
NSA Northern Ireland Region AGM
15th November 2012 (provisional)
Sheep Health and Welfare Conference - Wednesday 21st November
Delivering innovation with practical application for the farm
At Worcester Warriors, Sixways Stadium, Worcester.
To book your place email: email@example.com
The following is extracted from the NSA News Update 3 Aug 2012
When purchasing rams for your flock take note of EBLEX advice:-
Invest in rams which are fit for purpose this season
EBLEX advise not to just focus on size, but look for successful matings and longevity ie at least 3 - 4 seasons so as to maximise the financial returns. Too many rams are culled prematurely due to infertility and feet problems or die after only two years of service.
Further information about producing fit for purpose rams can be found in Fit for Purpose Rams: A Blueprint for Breeders, available to download from www.eblex.org.uk/returns/.
Lamb crop this year set to be highest since 2008 - tweets EBLEX
Forecasts from EBLEX and ADHB show a 2.5% growth in UK breeding flocks as at Dec 2011 and set to further rise steadily over the next 2 years. Along with higher carcass weights lamb production both for the home market and export are expected to be up on the last 4 years.
In line with NSA and Farmers Weekly Stamp Out Lameness Campaign, HCC is focusing resources on raising awareness and highlighting solutions through their Sheep Lameness project that aims to reduce the incidence of lameness in sheep flocks. This project will include delivery of a number of events as follows:-
4 market events:
6 August - NSA Early Ram sale, Builth Wells, LD2 3SY
20 August - Welshpool market, SY21 8SR
31 August - Llandovery market,SA20 OAW
6 September - Ruthin market ,LL15 1PB
6 practical / farm events:
16 August - James Price Ty Cooke farm, Mamhilad, Pont y Pool, NP4 8QZ
28 August - Glynllifon College,Llandwrog, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL54 5DY
29 August - Llysfasi College,Ruthin, Denbighshire, LL15 2LB
17 September - Richard Tudor, Glanystwyth, New Cross, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 4AP
14 September - Coleg Sir Gar, Gelli Aur Campus, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA32 8NJ
Members in Wales requiring further information should contact Dewi Hughes, HCC's Project Executive on 01970 625 050 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
NSA Members Update - 27th July 2012
SCOPS Technical Manual update
A new, 4th edition of the SCOPS technical manual is available on the SCOPS website. Although the manual is targeted towards vets and advisers it is also farmer friendly and available to all. Correct use of anthelmintics is vital if their effectiveness is to be maintained so do take the time to take a look.
NSA has joined forces with a number of other organisations to support an RSPCA campaign aiming to prohibit the use of Chinese lanterns. Although spectacular, there have been many cases where farm animals and wildlife have been injured and even killed through the debris caused by lanterns, even where lanterns are made from natural (non wire) materials. RSPCA are running a petition and aiming to get 20,000 signatures before delivering this to Government. You can support this campaign by using the following link and adding your weight to this campaign http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaigns/wildlife/chineselanterns/-/article/CAM_Chinese_lantern_Petition
NSA Annual General Meeting
Your organisation's AGM takes place on the 22nd August at 10am at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, followed by Lunch and a Farm Tour of Duchy Home Farm, by kind permission of Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury. This will be an interesting day and to help us with organisation we would ask that you book in advance, and as soon as you can, if you are able to come. Take a look at NSA website for further details or e mail your attendance to email@example.com
Farmers Happiest of all!
Phil Stocker takes a look at the 'news of the week'
This week saw the publishing of the results of the Government's 'Well-being survey' (which strangely I don't remember taking part in). Reading the reports of the survey suggest that if you are working in agriculture in Scotland or Northern Ireland then you are the happiest people in the land, and even nationally those working the land are 'happier'. Now, I know I talk to more farmers than non-farmers, but my recollections of conversations over these last few wet months mean I have no intention at all of having a conversation with a city dwelling office worker - life is tough enough!
Seriously though, we all know that the findings do have substance, and while sheep farming is hard work, in some of the toughest conditions, and sometimes even dirty, the satisfaction, camaraderie, chance to live and work in beautiful surroundings mean that farming is a great place to be.
2012 NSA Events & meetings:
NSA Wales & Border Early Ram Sale 2012 - Monday 6th August
At the Royal Welsh Showground. www.nsaramsales.co.uk
CATALOGUES AVAILABLE ON LINE.
NSA Breed Society Forum - Tuesday 21st August
At the RAC, Cirencester.
Invitation and agendas have been sent to all affiliated breed societies. firstname.lastname@example.org
NSA AGM - Wednesday 22nd August, 10am
At the RAC, Cirencester. To be followed by Lunch and a Farm Tour of Duchy Home Farm, by kind permission of Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury. Further details on the website and in your Sheep Farmer magazine. email@example.com
NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale 2012 The Main Ram Sale will be held on Monday 24th September at the Royal Welsh Showground. www.nsaramsales.co.uk
Sheep Health and Welfare Conference - Wednesday 21st November
Delivering innovation with practical application for the farm
At Worcester Warriors, Sixways Stadium, Worcester. To book your place please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NSA Members Update - 15th June 2012
Dip Disposal Licenses
If any member have experienced problems with the licensing procedure please let the NSA office know - email@example.com.
Zero tolerance on EID
We want to hear from members who have had/are having SFP penalties applied due to EID non compliances, in particular if penalties have been applied for minor non compliance - please let the NSA office know - firstname.lastname@example.org.
NSA Members Update - May 2012
Changes to Bluetongue Directive
You will recall from a previous update that the Commission has indicated that they wish to amend the BT Directive to make the use of vaccine easier in order to provide member states with more flexibility in dealing with the threat of infection. These changes to the Directive were recently adopted by the European Council in December 2011.
Before livestock holders within the EU can take advantage of these changes they need to be adopted by the European Parliament (EP) which is currently scheduled to take place at a Plenary session in February, this then has to be signed by the Chair of the Council and President of the EP which will take place at a further plenary session in March.
The proposal is likely to be finally approved around April time and Member States then have 6 months to transpose the changes into national legislation.
Until these changes have been officially agreed livestock holders in BT free areas will not be able to use vaccine for BT.
We will be looking at what this is likely to mean and involve us doing in terms of changes to the legislation in the coming months and we will keep you updated on future policy options.
Council Directive 2000/75/EC of 20 November 2000 lays down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue including specific rules on the use of bluetongue vaccine.
In recent years, as a result of new technology, "inactivated vaccines" against bluetongue have become available which do not pose a risk of circulation of vaccine derived virus amongst vectors and unvaccinated livestock. The extensive use of such vaccines during the vaccination campaign in recent years has led to a significant improvement in the disease situation. It is now widely accepted that vaccination with inactivated vaccines is the best way to control and prevent the spread of bluetongue.
In order to ensure better control against the spread of bluetongue virus and to reduce the burden on the agricultural sector posed by this disease, the Commission are amending the current rules on vaccination laid down in the Directive in order to take account of the recent technological developments in inactivated vaccine production. This will allow livestock holders to use vaccine within a free area and to vaccinate pre-emptively should they choose to do so.
In the meantime it continues to remain important for all livestock farmers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and report any suspicion of a notifiable disease to their nearest AHVLA regional office.
Current Bluetongue Disease Situation in Europe and surrounding region
Spain has now reported three outbreaks of BTV-1 in sentinel cattle. No clinical signs were observed.
Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands presented evidence for the lack of virus circulation over the last two years (3 years for the Netherlands), which therefore fulfils conditions for disease free status to be granted. Similarly for Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Germany continue to carry out surveillance, and have had no signs of disease in recent years and is considering options for going free within the near future. Commission had requested full data of German surveillance before consideration for freedom is made.
Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are looking to jointly request the free status of bluetongue in early 2012.
In Cyprus, the outbreaks of BTV have been serotyped as BTV-4 – origin unknown, but given proximity to Turkey that would be a likely source.
In Greece nine outbreaks of BTV16 were confirmed in 2011. All cases occurred near Turkey. Four cases (three sentinels) in Rhodes, two cases (2 sentinels) in Chios and three in Samos. In all cases very mild clinical signs (when present). In most cases no clinical signs (sentinel bovines or serological findings in small ruminants).
BTV-1 and BTV-4 continue to be reported from North Africa.
NSA Members Update - April 2012
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 239 UK farms reporting SBV: 25 in cattle and 214 in sheep farms in GB. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla/news
Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:
NSA Members Update - March 2012
The Real Value of English Red Meat
A thriving English red meat industry makes a net contribution of £1.67 billion to the economy making it central to economic recovery and future stability, a new study has found. The study Real Value of English Red Meat revealed the English economy would lose £906 million in contributions to employment alone if the red meat sector became unsustainable.
It is the first analysis of its kind to look at the net contribution of the industry, painting the most realistic possible picture of the value the sector brings to the economy.
The report was produced by Matrix Evidence, which provides analysis for policy and management through operational research, economic appraisals and public policy evaluations, and commissioned by EBLEX and BPEX, the English beef and sheep and pig meat divisions of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
Other findings include that of the 96,000 people currently directly employed by the industry, 91,000 of which are in rural areas, just over 20 per cent (20,256) would face unemployment if the English red meat sector was to cease. The demand created by farming in allied industries currently helps support an additional 772,998 jobs.
The full report is available in the publications section of the EBLEX website www.eblex.org.uk
Tips for livestock farmers at risk of drought.
With the chance of the drought in Southern England spreading, Eblex is urging farmers to take action. Its advice includes:-
- Monitor sward heights every two weeks to understand if demand is outstripping supply so decisions can be made early. Do not let sward heights go below 3cm, as animal performance will be low and grass recovery time will be significantly increased.
- Consider using electric fences to manage grazing and avoid allowing animals to range over a number of fields, giving the sward chance to recover and preventing over-grazing.
- Rotational grazing can help give grass the rest it needs. Using buffer feeding to reduce the speed of the rotation will ensure that the grass has the best opportunity to re-grow.
- Maximise first cut silage area by controlling grazing in the spring (don't be too generous and waste early season grass).
- Consider planting a catch crop (such as kale, rape or turnips) prior to any proposed reseed to extend grazing later in the season.
- Conserve water supplies by harvesting rainwater from buildings where possible.
- Consider alternative forage crops (such as summer brassicas, chicory or red clover), while being mindful that while they may be more productive in drier periods, they need moisture during the establishment and growth phase
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 235 farms in GB. Twenty five of the positive cases have been diagnosed in cattle, 210 in sheep, and none to date in other species such as goats, camelids or deer. Currently, SBV infection has only been identified in areas predicted to be at risk of midge incursion from Northern Europe during summer / autumn 2011. The possibility that domestic (local) midges may have transmitted SBV within the affected areas cannot be ruled out according to AHVLA. Figures correct as of 30 March 2012
NSA would urge all producers where a suspicious case arises, to take advantage of the FREE and CONFIDENTIAL reporting service offered by AHVLA. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla/news
Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:
NSA Members Update - February 2012
Welsh EID Database Announcement
Welsh Govt announced yesterday that they are not going to partner with Defra in the tender process that is due to go out later this month to develop a movement database. Welsh Assembly will consider one of two options, to either develop their own bespoke database, or use an adapted version of the Scot EID system. There is not a timescale in place in Wales for any implementation yet. There is an assurance that Welsh Govt are committed to ensuring compatibility between whatever they use with Scot EID and the England system.
Therefore Defra is about to commence the tender process for a movements database for England only. NSA, ideally placed as a UK organisation, will continue to work across all devolved areas, to ensure the industry has systems in place which are entirely compatible for all producers across GB. There are still opportunities to influence what the DEFRA tender asks for, so NSA’s policy team will be developing a strategic plan to present to Government.
NSA meeting with Jim Paice MP
NSA CEO and NSA Chairman, Phil Stocker and John Geldard, met with the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice last week (29th Feb). NSA raised serious concerns over the state of play with a range of measures relating to disease control, including the need to ensure current movement recording beyond the farm gate is being properly conducted centrally; the urgency of alternatives to the 6-day standstill that result in practical and effective measures; and of course the Ministers recent announcement of zero tolerance. All these issues continue to frustrate the sheep sector and NSA will keep up its work, aiming for a balance of lightening the regulatory burden while delivering effective security and risk control for the sector.
Upland Farm Incomes
It is reported that average farm business income in the LFAs increased by 49% between 2006/07 and 2010/11, but remains at a relatively low level – without the Single Payment Scheme and agri-environment payments on average grazing livestock farms would have made a loss in each of the last 5 years. 37% of grazing livestock farms in LFAs undertook a diversified activity and 26% indicated that all of their household income was provided by the farm. There was widespread feeling that there are fewer opportunities for wider income generation for upland farms than for farms elsewhere.
Reference RU Source - Rural information Centre
NSA would urge all producers to continue to remain vigilant, and where a suspicious case arises, take advantage of the FREE and CONFIDENTIAL reporting service offered by AHVLA. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla/news
Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:
NSA Briefing on the discovery of Schmallenberg virus in England. January 2012
Schmallenberg virus has been confirmed by Defra AHVLA to have been found on 4 farms in England, in the counties of East Sussex, Suffolk, and Norfolk. At this stage most farmers should do no more than be aware and extra vigilant - it is most likely that the infection was transmitted by insects during the late summer/autumn of last year and the risk of further infection being transmitted from these farms is low. There are currently no implications to trade and no "firewall movement barriers" being put in place in the UK, although Russia has put in place export bans on live ruminants and ruminant products from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, where Schmallenberg virus has been present for some time.
Guidance for sheep producers
Official veterinary advice is two-fold at the moment; Farmers are strongly encouraged to support the gathering of information and report any suspicions of Schmallenberg to their veterinary practice (see below for clinical symptoms), and secondly any imports of live animals from EU regions affected by Schmallenberg virus should be undertaken in strict consultation with veterinary advice and guidance.
The clinical symptoms in sheep include late abortion and birth defects/malformed foetuses and the NSA would encourage any sheep keepers that experience such occurrences to speak to their vets and consider post mortem testing. Producers in Scotland should also contact SAC Veterinary Services, and those in Wales and Northern Ireland their Government veterinary departments.
Schmallenberg virus also affects cattle with symptoms including fever, milk yield reduction, and diarrhoea. Defra have indicated that they will cover the costs of testing for Schmallenberg virus although post mortem costs will be at the farmers cost. There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Schmallenberg virus, vaccine manufacturers and laboratories are currently considering whether it would be possible and effective to develop a vaccine but estimates are that such a vaccine would be at least 2 years away. It is expected that animals that have been infected with Schmallenberg virus will develop immunity and production is likely not to suffer in subsequent years - however if experienced it could affect individual flocks seriously.
It may seem that there is little that farmers can do to protect their flocks, and in terms of vaccine protection this is true. However there are things that farmers can and should do and these include:
- Support the gathering of information and reporting by speaking with their vet regarding any abnormalities in fertility, abortion, or lamb malformations
- Take veterinary advice before importing any animals from areas affected by Schmallenberg virus (details can be found on the defra web link below). The NSA would discourage any imports of live animals from these regions.
- Remember that the virus can be transmitted during periods when insect activity is evident, - but that clinical signs may not be seen until later in the season. Consequently always assess the risks of bringing stock onto your farm.
- Always practice the highest possible levels of general biosecurity and quarantine/separation whenever bringing new animals on site.
- Manage your stock to promote general health and vitality. This can be helped by good nutrition including optimum mineral and trace element levels, and through managing internal and external parasites. Given that there is no vaccine available do all you can to increase the ability of your flock to cope with disease challenges.
For more information please follow this link to the defra web site www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/files/poa-schmallenburg-update-120117.pdf (note the alternative spelling - both versions are being used).
The NSA will continue to keep you informed of any developments via our web site, our regular e newsletter, and the Sheep Farmer magazine. If you do not receive the e newsletter and would like to please email email@example.com with your membership number, to be added to the list of recipients.
Changes To EID Regulations - November 2010
"Provided by the National Sheep Association"
With the EID regulations now having been in place within the UK for almost a year many sheep farmers are still only just coming to terms with the requirements. By now all flock owners should have either used the new electronic system or be ordering their electronic tags for the 2011 crop of lambs.
Depending on which part of the country you are in and whether you are tagging breeding or sheep that are intended for slaughter under 12 months of age, these will be slaughter tags (EID or non) or full double tagged EID. Having gone over the issues of tagging there is then the problem of knowing just what to record in your records whenever sheep are moved or identified.
Even though the ink is barely dry on the new rules, there will be from the start of 2011 some further movement recording requirements to take on board. The NSA is urging its members to be fully aware of the existing recording rules and to acquaint themselves with the new ones that will come into existence in the New Year. These changes apply to movement documents and are to be introduced from January 1st 2011. They will affect ALL sheep farmers and are in ADDITION to the records you are currently required to keep in your holding register.
There are three major parts of the recording requirements which you need to be aware of :-
1. Holding Register
From December 31st 2009 you should have been recording the individual identification number for full EID (two tags) animals born after January 1st 2010 when they are:
- First identified (up to nine months of age if they stay on the holding of birth)
- If the animal dies
- Or if the animal moves to a different holding number
Slaughter animals (tagged with a single tag EID or non EID) are still required to be recorded on a batch basis (flock numbers) only.
Animals that were born before December 31st 2009 do not have to be recorded individually in the holding register during 2011.
2. Movement Document
From January 1st 2011 the legislation regarding what has to be recorded on the movement document changes. From that date ALL sheep tagged with full EID (two tags) must be recorded individually on the movement licence. However, if the sheep are destined to be either moved within a business (under the control of the keeper depending upon which part of the UK you are in) or moved through a Central Point Recording Centre (CPRC) then batch recording is still permitted.
The CPRC will provide the individual numbers needed for the Holding Register. Please talk to the operator of your CPRC before you move sheep onto that facility from the start of next year (2011) to ensure that you are aware of the service that is being offered if those are sheep that are double tagged with EID.
Slaughter animals and historic animals can still be moved on a batch basis and should be recorded as so.
3. Historic Animals
As things stand at the moment, from January 1st 2012, legislation will change once again and this time it will affect your historic flock. These are the animals born before the start of 2010 and they will not necessarily have EID or double tags (although Shropshire Sheep will be at least double tagged to comply with SSBA rules). The legislation that is proposed to come into force at the start of 2012 will require the individual recording of these animals if they are destined for further sale, but if not if they are moving to slaughter or within a business.
So remember that we now all need to double tag our sheep when we keep them for breeding purposes or sell them as such. The left ear should be a yellow EID tag and the other ear can be any colour other than yellow or red and need not be an EID. So order your tags for the coming months and hopefully this year things are much easier obtaining them from the manufacturers now that they are used to them – but remember to maintain the SSBA tagging identification requirements detailed in your SSBA Flock Book. – That being and individual number for each sheep, your Affix letter code and the year of birth.
Taken in part from the NSA Sheep Farmer journal.
NSA Supports NFU Position on Badger Control in fight against Bovine TB:
NSA has made a brief response to the Defra consultation on a range of measures to try and eradicate BovineTB. The proposals include action to control the disease in badgers in England. Although not directly a sheep issue of any consequence, it was felt appropriate that NSA support NFU in their efforts to change policy on Bovine TB to allow a badger control programme to be introduced as many NSA members will have cattle and will have been affected by this terrible disease. The NSA response reflects this. Anyone wishing to see the NSA response or the NFU response which we have supported should contact the office in Malvern.
Fixed Costs make up the Majority:
Did you know that fixed overheads such as labour, machinery and power account for around 2/3rds of the cost of production on sheep farms. The percentage is very similar whether the flock is in the top third for overall cost of production or the bottom third. However the difference in monetary terms is around £12 per ewe (fixed cost for top third is £67/ ewe and for bottom third £79/ewe).
In today’s world of relatively high prices for sheep, it is vital that sight is not lost of the ever increasing costs associated with their production. Variable costs tend to stay in the mind especially as the corn bill or drench invoice is paid, but it is far too easy not to focus on fixed costs. It is clear that there is potential on every farm to reduce them but before that can happen they need to be identified. Several NSA regions have run costing meetings during the last year and more are planned for this winter, the response has always been very good and they are definitely thought provoking for those who attend. All levy boards throughout the UK also have very good information (mostly web based) on both variable and fixed costs and tips on how to reduce them. The challenge with reducing costs is, as many sheep farmers have found out, to only do it in ways which do not result in a loss of flock performance that equates to more than the money saved by reducing costs.
Tell us what you think about Levies:
Levy increases just below or above 20% have either been brought in or are under consultation in all parts of GB. Scotland has already gone through the consultation process with industry and does not appear to have encountered too many objections; Wales and England are out to consultation at the moment on increases (the first since 2001).
Levy bodies are an easy target for criticism and no doubt there are times when individuals will think that they have not spent the money well. However it seems to NSA that they generally do a good job for the industry and are continuing to move forward with good initiatives and ideas. NSA wishes to be positive in its response about these proposed higher levies as long as it is clear how the money is being spent. NSA is encouraged to be positive by the fact that there is good commitment from the levy boards to use the extra funds to support the critically important export market and to develop the ever increasing Halal sector on which the sheep industry depends. NSA would also wish to see the knowledge transfer projects that are undertaken enhanced and greater technical detail introduced alongside more basic information.
Should NSA be supportive if there is a well made case with firm plans in place, or should we not – your comments are welcome.
RAC Report Covers Many Aspects of Sheep Industry:
The annual Royal Agricultural College and Rumenco 100 Club Annual Fellowship in Beef and Sheep has been written this year by Eblex Sector Director Nick Allen. This excellent document covers many aspects of the current sheep industry and is thoroughly recommended no matter which part of the UK you come from. Please refer to the Eblex website for more information.
From www.vetsmed.com 04 Jun 2010
Veterinary associations have welcomed the European Commission announcement that Britain’s bluetongue status will be reclassified as a Lower Risk Zone (LRZ) for bluetongue virus (BTV8) and are asking members to get the message out to clients as soon as possible.
Britain is currently part of the BTV8 Protection Zone, which covers much of Europe, and will become a LRZ on Saturday 12th June 2010. The LRZ is a new classification which requires stricter vaccination conditions to be placed on bluetongue-susceptible animals being imported. These stringent conditions are:
vaccination plus a 60-day wait; or
vaccination plus a test 14 days after onset of immunity; or
booster vaccination within the time stated on each vaccine’s data sheet.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its specialist divisions the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), the Goat Veterinary Society (GVS) and the Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS) are urging veterinary surgeons to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules, which will take effect on 12th June.
As part of the JAB (Joint campaign Against Bluetongue) campaign group, the veterinary profession is also urging farmers to continue to vaccinate their livestock due to the small but ongoing risks of re-infection from wind-borne spread of the disease, and the risk of importing infected foetuses.
The profession believes that a small but significant number of pregnant animals could be carrying a BTV-infected foetus but still test negative in the post-import blood test. The newborn animal could infect the local midge population and restart the circulation of the disease. Once the disease is in the midge population it can spread huge distances in short periods of time.
Commenting, Nicky Paull, Past-President of the BVA and member of Defra’s Bluetongue Core Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone is fantastic news for Britain and another step in the direction of disease-free status. It is something that the veterinary profession has fought for and we are delighted that the new arrangements mean that vaccination can continue in Britain.
“With imports to Britain increasing at a high rate, we know that the biggest threat to the country was importation of the disease. That is why the additional vaccination measures for imports are vital in protecting British livestock. “Veterinary surgeons need to inform clients who import susceptible species of the changes to the imports rules as soon as possible and direct them to further information on the Defra website or at the local Animal Health Office.”
Gareth Hateley, Chair of the BCVA Notifiable and Exotic Diseases Working Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone must not be seen as an excuse to relax vaccination measures. Although it does greatly reduce the likelihood of importing the disease, that threat still remains from the small, but significant, risk of an infected foetus being imported."The threat of wind-borne re-incursion also exists and once the disease is in the midge population it can spread very quickly.”
Nick Clayton, Hon Secretary of the GVS, said: “Vaccination remains the key to protecting British livestock. Vaccination now will protect your livestock, but if you wait until disease is present, you will be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In an emergency vaccine production may not keep pace with demand if BTV is confirmed in the UK. “Vets need to encourage farmers to maintain a high level of immunity in the livestock under their care. If a ‘breakdown’ occurs, awkward questions are certain to be asked."
Paul Roger, Bluetongue Stakeholder Representative for the SVS, said: “This is a very important step for Britain and we must pay tribute to the hard work of the Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, and his team in Defra. “The veterinary profession wholeheartedly welcomes the move to a Lower Risk Zone and the additional protection it affords Great Britain.”
Minister for State for Food and Agriculture, Jim Paice MP commented: ‘This is a great result that speaks volumes for the work done by farmers and vets, who’ve worked with the Government to achieve this Lower Risk Zone status for bluetongue. It will help protect our livestock producers but they must remain vigilant and anyone importing stock must make sure that they meet the new requirements for importation.’
Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens said: ‘The news from SCoFCAH that Great Britain has achieved Lower Risk Zone status is testament to the excellent cooperation between industry and government demonstrated from the earliest days of 2007’s bluetongue outbreak. We have remained in a bluetongue Protection Zone since the first case was confirmed and the efforts of responsible livestock owners and vets in vaccinating stock and the surveillance work by Animal Health, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Institute for Animal Health has allowed us to successfully apply for this revised status. ‘But we cannot become complacent, and I’d encourage farmers and vets to continue to vaccinate their livestock and remain vigilant for disease while additional targeted surveillance continues in the higher risk areas.’
(click on images for larger versions)
Shropshire breeder and vet, Anne Tordoff, has kindly written this article to help members understand the disease.
Blue Tongue is caused by a virus of which there are 24 different strains. It is primarily spread by insect vectors particularly a species of midge but there can also be limited transmission by infected semen or blood products.
The disease was previously thought to be a problem of warmer countries and had never spread further than approximately 40 degrees north – Southern France, Spain & Portugal. However that all changed in the summer of 2006.
The midges tend to breed in damp or wet soil enriched by fresh or composted dung or organic matter. They feed on the blood of large vertebrate animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, goats & deer. They tend to be most active around dawn & dusk or on dull days and in the shade. Populations fall dramatically as the weather gets colder through the winter though it is not unknown for some to emerge on a mild winter’s day. The average life span of the midge is around 10 days.
Transmission of Disease
On biting an infected animal, blood containing virus is taken in to the midge’s gut. It then takes 7 to 10 days for the virus to pass through the body & the virus to become fully established in the salivary glands of the midge. The midge is then said to have become “competent”.
One bite of a competent midge can transmit infection to a susceptible animal and large numbers of midges may feed on a single animal during the course of a night, possibly 10,000 bites / hour in cattle.
The ability of the midge to become competent and transmit the virus depends on the ambient temperature. The virus can’t develop in the midge below about 14 degrees C. Peak development and the shortest time for competency to develop is around 30 degrees C.
Midges can fly only about 1km per day but can be carried on a favourable wind up to 100km. The wind speed, temperature and humidity also play a part. It is possible for the virus to over-winter in an animal. A cow bitten at the beginning of winter could possibly still be carrying virus capable of being taken up by a midge, into March or April. If the temperature in the spring is just high enough to allow the virus to establish in the midge then “bingo” – the disease is back. This is thought to be how the virus re-emerged in Europe this year.
These vary with the strain of the virus and the species of animal. The worst disease tends to be seen in sheep. The incubation period from the bite of an infected midge to the first clinical signs is 3 to 8 days.
Acute cases produce the following symptoms: fever lasting a week or so; reddening of the mucosa (inner lining) of the mouth & nose; salivation, runny eyes and nasal discharge; the lips & tongue may become swollen & the swelling may extend over the head, ears and under the jaw “bottle jaw”. There may also be tiny haemorrhages over the mucosa of the mouth, nose & conjunctiva, necrotic lesions on the gums, cheeks and tongue after 5 to 8 days which gradually heal under a membrane of serum & pus. Breathing may be laboured breathing & the animal may pass bloody diarrhoea. There may also be inflammation just above the horn of the hoof, lameness & a hunched back, rapid weight loss, weakness & twisted neck. Up to 78% of infected animals may die.
In chronic cases the signs are muscle damage causing long term lameness; wool break leaving patches of bare skin; swollen feet, sometimes just 1 foot affected & seen long after the original infection.
The disease is most likely to be introduced to the UK by the wind spreading infected midges from northern France, or the importation of an infected animal or midges travelling with these animals. There are various measures currently in place to counteract these.
The Met office is working closely with Defra to plot the weather conditions each day around the nearest infected areas to us and so predict when a risk of windborne midges arriving here may occur.
No imported animals are allowed to enter this country from the infected areas however other imported animals are allowed to transit the restriction zones on their way here. These animals must be treated with an approved insecticide before passing through the zones. On arrival here they are immediately restricted and subjected to a clinical inspection by a Veterinary Officer, followed by blood sampling. The restrictions are not removed until clear test results are received.
Should BT be confirmed in any animal then the affected farm will be immediately restricted until at least the source is determined. If it is a recently imported animal and the chances are that midges may not yet have become infected then it is possible that this animal may be slaughtered. If the animal has not been imported so has likely been infected by a midge here.
A 100km radius protection zone will be set up and a surveillance zone a further 50 km out from that. Licensed movements will be allowed within these zones but probably not between restricted areas & free areas. Midge monitoring using light traps will be started to determine if competent insects are present.
Advice will be given for farmers to try to minimise contact with the vector such as housing from dusk to dawn (not very effective unless use tiny mesh screens or covers over doorways impregnated with insecticide). Insecticides may be used. Midge habitats may be altered by mending leaking taps/pipes, draining wet areas, clearing up muck heaps etc and by the use of larvicides on breeding habitats.
Vaccination may be considered especially if the disease becomes endemic, however there are problems associated with this. No BT vaccine currently has a marketing authorisation in the UK, however unapproved ones could be used if the CVO directed, in an emergency. The best vaccine to use is one containing the specific serotype involved, failing this a closely related strain vaccine may give some protection against disease.
My latest information is that a BTV – 8 vaccine was not yet available although nearing completion however it may not be ready until the end of this year or next year.
Being a viral disease there is no specific treatment. It is only possible to treat the symptoms and support the animal as it tries to recover itself. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with antibiotics may be of some use but sometimes the only way is euthanasia to relieve suffering.
BT is spreading dramatically in Europe and it was with great regret that we heard that a member of our breed society on the Continent had had it confirmed in his sheep. I’m sure we all offer him all our support and best wishes and hope that the disease will be as limited as possible.
I feel it is only a matter of time before we have a case emerging in this country, most likely in the south of England. We were lucky last year that the cases that were recorded in the North of France, just across the Channel, occurred at a time when the wind conditions were unfavourable to the movement of midges over here. We may not be so lucky this year!