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September 2008 Archives

EID problems.JPGWelsh MEP Jill Evans was provided with a demonstration of the controversial sheep and goats' electronic identification (EID) technology
on Friday, September 26 on Bryncelynog Farm, near Trawsfynydd.

Farmer and FUW member Dylan Huws is currently piloting EID on his large flock of Welsh Mountain sheep at their farm in the Prysor Valley.

The visit, arranged by Merionethshire County Executive Officer Huw Jones, gave Ms Evans the opportunity to see the technology at work at
first hand.

Earlier this month the Plaid MEP joined forces with MEPs from across the political spectrum to launch a written declaration in the European

Parliament in a bid to amend EC plans for compulsory electronic tagging of sheep.

If the declaration is signed by a majority of MEPs within three months, it will be recorded in the official minutes of the EU Parliament and
communicated to other relevant EU institutions.

Speaking at the farm, the FUW's livestock, wool, and marts committee chairman Aeron Prysor Jones said: "Ms Evans got to see first hand today the problems that can accompany this technology, as Dylan encountered serious problems in getting his electronic reader to pick up a single tag.

"This issue has prompted the union to launch an online petition on the Prime Minister's website. The petition can be found at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/list/open?cat=692.

"Compulsory EID will do little other than increase the money and time spent on rearing sheep. The EC's obsession with introducing the
technology goes completely against their own commitment to reducing red tape.

"We therefore fully support the work of Jill Evans and other MEPs in their fight against this ridiculous imposition, and we would encourage all MEPs to sign up to the declaration"

Ms Evans said: "Seeing the technology at work has reinforced my views that this scheme is unworkable and unnecessary.

"As we saw today, the technology used for EID is temperamental to say the least, and can have major flaws. If such problems can occur with just
a handful of sheep, how on earth can the system work with a whole flock?

"Other trials have also shown difficulties operating the system in different weather conditions which would prove particularly more challenging for
farmers in Wales.

"Farmers and farming unions are telling me quite clearly that they are totally opposed to this plan for compulsory electronic tagging. For the 41
per cent of farms in Wales that are sheep producers, the scheme would be costly to implement and would simply be impractical.

"Across Wales and the UK there is both Government and cross-party support for abandoning these proposals, and by getting MEPs to sign up
we hope to send a clear message to the Commission."

The red meat and dairy sectors will be discussed during the AGM of the Farmers' Union of Wales' Flintshire branch on Monday, October 6 at 7.30pm at Caerwys Institute, Caerwys, near Mold.

Hybu Cig Cymru chief executive Gwyn Howells will concentrate on red meat marketing including the various challenges, relationships with supermarkets and research and development while Dairy Co Welsh board member Trevor Lloyd will discuss the dairy sector including farm-gate prices, the market, product development and DairyCo's role.

Following the speakers' addresses there will be a question and answer session.

The meeting will be chaired by county president John Worthington and will include an annual report from the county chairman Mr D L Davies on the union's work and activities within Flintshire.

"All members are welcome, and with a wealth of experience in our two guest speakers, it promises to be both an interesting and informative evening," Mr Davies said.



THE Farmers' Union of Wales warned today that decisions following a Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) consultation on a review of land management must ensure upland farmers do not lose out financially.

"Our big concern is the impact this long-awaited consultation document could have on those 10,300 farmers currently receiving Tir Mynydd assistance within the Less Favoured Area - which covers 79 per cent of Wales," said FUW senior policy officer Rhian Nowell-Phillips following the launch of the consultation document today.

The consultation, "Sustaining the Land", is part a review of programmes under Axis II of the Wales Rural Development Plan. Axis II covers all land management programmes, agri-environmental schemes including Tir Gofal, woodland grants and Tir Mynydd.

It lists three options - modifying existing schemes including Tir Mynydd; introducing a new, two-tier pan-Wales scheme developed from Tir Mynydd with an element targeting carbon management and water quality issues; and introducing a new fully integrated agri-environment approach without Tir Mynydd.

"We must ensure that farmers now receiving Tir Mynydd assistance will not lose out as that scheme was intended to compensate them for the additional difficulty of farming in the uplands," said Ms Nowell-Phillips.

"Whatever scheme or schemes are eventually put in place we must not increase the level of land abandonment in the uplands. We will now spend the next 12 weeks consulting our members across Wales for their views," she added.

WAG also intends to hold discussion meetings with farmers and other stakeholders as part of the process. Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said the consultation was a first step in the process of developing a new framework of programmes under Axis II.

"The Assembly Government is keen to promote schemes under Axis II that meet public concerns on climate change mitigation whilst ensuring farmers are able to continue to manage land for their purpose of food production and maintaining the traditional Welsh family farm," added Ms Jones.

The consultation will run until December 19 and details of the dates and venues of the public meetings will be placed at: http:/new.wales.gov.uk/consultations

Welsh sheep farmers are complaining that the British Wool Marketing Board's intention to offer bonus payments for deliveries of more than 4,000 kilogrammes of wool would undermine confidence in the board.

Members of the Farmers' Union of Wales' livestock, wool and marts committee stressed bonus payments were fundamentally wrong because they contradicted the board's main object of ensuring the same standard prices for all producers regardless of the volume of wool delivered.

The committee was unanimously opposed to the board's intention to make additional payments of between 4 and 10p per kg to producers delivering more than 4,000 kg in the 2008/9 season.

Members instructed chairman Aeron Prysor Jones to write to the board's chief executive Ian Hartley to complain that consultation with members and producers regarding the intention to make such bonus payments had been negligible.

"The committee felt this undermined producers' confidence in the board at a time when it was attempting to encourage producers to remain loyal and not turn to other buyers," Mr Jones said today.

The Farmers' Union of Wales today expressed extreme concern that the European Commission's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) health check failed to address the issue of food security at such a critical time.

In evidence to the Welsh Assembly's European and external affairs committee, the FUW stated: "The CAP, by design, provides a framework that allows Europe to react to the imminent challenges that growing populations, global warming, rising sea levels, and peak oil represent in terms of food security."

But, the union complained, CAP-related legislative proposals published by the Commission in May used the word food only a handful of times and never in the context of food security.

Addressing the committee in Cardiff, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said the union's written evidence was the democratically established views of members collated over the past year during regular consultation with its 12 county branches.

"Those members, and the farming industry as a whole, constitute an essential part of the fabric of our society here in Wales, and without them we would not have such a range of unique and valuable assets.

"At the core of that fabric is the traditional Welsh family farm, which the FUW was established more than 50 years ago to protect. But I would like to emphasise that, while we welcome some of the developments that have occurred in terms of the CAP health check, we believe an opportunity has been missed.

"Without wishing to appear to be scaremongering, I believe that we are at a crossroads in terms of the impact that decisions taken today will have on future generations.

"The success of the CAP in providing an abundance of food has led to the embedding in some quarters of apathy regarding food security.

"With all the challenges that the world will face over the coming decades - in terms of oil supplies, global warming, rising populations, and the like - we should have liked to have seen the European Commission reacting more positively to the critical issues that will shape the future of upcoming generations.

"We have recently seen the devastating repercussions that short-sighted decisions made by financial institutes both here and in the US have had throughout the world.

"There is a real danger of far worse repercussions if the European Commission do not change course in the coming years and bring the CAP back to its core purpose, which was to look after the future security of Europe's peoples."

DENBIGH and Flint branches of the Farmers' Union of Wales have arranged a meeting to discuss Bluetongue and the importance of vaccinating and protecting animals against the BTV8 strain.

"It is important that all FUW members understand the implications that will arise should further infected animals be imported to the country from Europe," said FUW county executive officer Gareth Wyn Jones.

A member of the Welsh Chief Veterinary Officer's department and FUW director of agricultural policy Dr Nick Fenwick will be in attendance to deliver an update and discuss the latest situation.

All members are urged to attend this special meeting held at Llysfasi College, Ruthin, next Wednesday (October 1) at 2pm.

Pembrokeshire arable farmer Bryn Rees and his son Phil are currently engaged in a "salvage operation" of their weather-hit harvest as they face the extra costs of bringing in and drying their crops following continuous wet weather for several weeks.

Rain and the lack of sunshine have prolonged this year's grim harvest with many farmers forced to combine crops at far higher moisture contents than usual, said Bryn, who represents the county on the the Farmers' Union of Wales farm tourism and diversification committee.

He and Phil have only been able to harvest about one-third of the 150 acres of barley and wheat and 30 acres of maize on their mixed farm near Haverfordwest.

"We've had one wet day after another here for weeks until earlier this week so it's only now that we can have a clear run in what can only be described as a salvage operation. Ideally, we will need five to six dry days to make any real impact on our harvest.

"But whatever the weather we are going to have to use the gas-guzzling drying machine for some four weeks. Together with the huge increase in fuel costs for the combine and baler we are already looking to much poorer returns than last year," said Bryn, of Creampots, Broad Haven.

He gave a lukewarm welcome to the temporary exemption from the cross compliance requirement restricting vehicles on waterlogged soil in Wales which is aimed at helping farmers to complete their harvest.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones announced the temporary exemption, granted because of the exceptional weather conditions, will last until 4 October, 2008, subject to review.

She agreed the recent weather conditions, with rainfall far and above average for this time of year, are creating problems for farmers, particularly those harvesting crops.

The Farmers' Union of Wales is working with university computer buffs and representatives of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across Europe in drawing up a major report which could help Welsh farmers win better Broadband access plus incentives to fill in official forms online.

FUW vice president Glyn Roberts and director of public relations Peter Roberts have just returned from an EU Rural-eGov meeting in Athens also attended by academics and SME representatives from Greece, Poland, Slovenia and Germany as part of an EC Leonardo da Vinci initiative.

The FUW and Cardiff University's eCommerce Innovation Centre are the Welsh partners in the project aimed at improving the uptake of electronic public administration services (e-Government services) in rural areas throughout Europe.

The two-year pilot project, which started in October 2006, has analysed the needs of SMEs in rural Wales, Greece, Germany, Poland and Slovenia who have different types and levels of e-Government services and deployment.

The FUW is now looking forward to contributing recommendations and comments in a final dissemination report.

"The project involved two FUW-organised workshops attended by more than 20 farmers and other SME representatives who showed a huge amount of interest in the practical examples of e-Government services such as cattle movement and vehicle registration and paying income tax and VAT online," said Glyn Roberts.

"But a glaring outcome was the number of complaints by several representatives about ineffective broadband access with parts of Pembrokeshire, Montgomeryshire - and even the Rhoose area around Cardiff International Airport - reported to be particular blackspots."

Peter Roberts said the project confirmed that access to a fast internet connection was becoming an increasingly useful tool for farmers with registering cattle movements online a regular task.

"So it is vital that we have effective access to broadband technology to carry out these tasks quickly and efficiently.

"Electronic services are rapidly becoming critical means for providing services for businesses, citizens, and public institutions through the internet and with the spread of information and communication technologies (ICT) advancements, new challenges have emerged, highlighting the need for better, more cost effective and more accessible services.

"Many European local or central governments have made substantial investments for improving e-government infrastructures and services for citizens and businesses.

"Considerable advances have been achieved in the rollout of ICT-based e-government services in many European regions, and success has already been registered - for example, online tax returns save millions of hours each year.

"However, much remains to be done in order to record essential progress and social acceptance of ICT and e-services in areas lagging behind in their development or adoption.

"This problem can be clearly identified when considering ICT and e-service adoption by SMEs in rural areas. For example, being away from the central public authorities, they do not have direct, physical access to a variety of public sector services.

"They are far off the decision and policy-making centres and it is neither always feasible - due to lack of transportation, time, money or bad weather - nor convenient to travel for obtaining the necessary information or for making use of the available public service.

"ICT and e-services aim to address such problems by providing the means for interested stakeholders - such as public authorities - to deploy and provide their services online and by facilitating rural SMEs in accessing e-services from their region.

"On the other hand, in many cases professionals and citizens are not aware of electronically available services, or do not know how to effectively use them so as to reap benefits in their everyday business activities."

Emyr Jones and boys.JPGFarmers' Union of Wales deputy president Emyr Jones and his two sons have picked up a top national grassland management accolade.

Their family-run beef and sheep farm on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park has been judged the winner of the 2008 British Grassland Society's national grassland management competition, sponsored by GrowHow UK and DLF-Trifolium.

Mr Jones and sons, Aled (30) and Dylan (26), farm 190ha (470 acres) at Rhiwaedog, Rhosygwaliau, Bala, and are members of the Meirionnydd Grassland Society.

Nearly all the grass is on land reclaimed from bracken, gorse and scrub over the past 30 years, yet the high quality ryegrass and clover swards are managed to optimise intakes and regrowth by careful attention to stocking rate and control of sward height, impressing the competition judges.

Emyr paid tribute to his sons after the result was announced during this week's Dairy Event and Livestock Show at Stoneleigh. "They did all the hard work to make sure we were able to add the British title to the Welsh title we received at the Royal Welsh Show.

"This wonderful achievement is really down to them," Emyr added.

Head judge, farmer Richard Ratcliffe, said Emyr and his two sons rightly take immense pride in what they have achieved on what most people would consider to be an impossible place to make a living.

"The grassland would do credit to any farm on the best lowland soil, never mind 300m up a wet, Welsh hill. The quality of the stock matched the quality of the grassland, and helped to make this a profitable business for the family."

In addition to being 180-340m above sea level, in an area with more than 2,000mm of rainfall, the land is extremely steep and rocky over large areas. It carries 1,200 breeding ewes (900 Welsh Mountain and 300 crossbreds) and a pedigree 60-cow Welsh Black suckler herd.

The grassland policy is aimed at making the most of grazed grass, and designing a livestock system which maximises grass utilisation, and capitalises on the investments made in land improvement over the years. The farm is all down to very high quality perennial ryegrass/small leaf white clover leys.

It is self-sufficient for winter forage, using lower flatter fields to make one cut from about 40ha (100 acres) in the second half of June. Silage is made as round bales, using their own machinery. Reseeding is done as needed, mainly on the silage fields with weed control mainly achieved by keeping a dense sward, and spot treating any weeds that do appear.

It is self-sufficient for winter forage, using lower flatter fields to make one cut from about 40ha (100 acres) in the second half of June. Silage is made as round bales, using their own machinery. Reseeding is done as needed, mainly on the silage fields with weed control mainly achieved by keeping a dense sward, and spot treating any weeds that do appear.

"Highly impressive dense, leafy swards were present over the whole farm in early September as a result of a high degree of management over the earlier part of the season," said Mr Ratcliffe.

Fields are fenced into 3-10ha (8-25 acre) blocks, depending on the terrain to increase flexibility in maintaining the right stocking rate for the grass growth.

Winter management of the grass revolves around housing the cattle from late October until early May, to leave as much grass for the sheep over winter.

Good levels of livestock production are achieved by using breeds well adapted to farm conditions and investing in careful selection for breeding. This resulted in 1,126 ewes producing 1,832 lambs sold (163%) last year, giving an output of £63/ewe in a difficult year.

The number of ewes and size of the lamb crop is considered as optimal for the farm. A higher lambing % would mean more triplets, which are very difficult to manage on a hill farm, said Emyr.

The sale of yearling crossbred ewes brings in a good premium of up to £85 each and 25 pure Welsh rams are also kept for selling as yearlings for breeding, also bringing in a significant premium.

Emyr believes the Welsh Black breed is ideal for the farm situation and terrain. They are not as fast growing as crossbreds, but having the herd as pedigree adds considerable value to the stock to justify keeping them.

All manure from housed cattle is stored as slurry and used on silage fields in spring, after sheep have moved off, in mid May. Solid muck from housed sheep and young cattle is spread on higher grazing fields.

The farm has just finished a 10 year Tir Cymen environmental scheme, which has seen funding for tree planting (4,000), hedge planting (3,000m), fencing round existing woods, and 785m of stone walls rebuilt. An application will be made to join the next scheme when details are published.

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today called on European Commissioner for animal health and welfare Androulla Vassiliou to urgently review animal movement rules between Bluetongue protection zones.

The call follows a lengthy discussion on the disease during the union's livestock committee which resulted in chairman Aeron Prysor asking FUW president Gareth Vaughan to write to the commissioner.

In the letter Mr Vaughan stressed that the numerous incidences of BTV8 infected animals being imported into Wales and other regions of the UK from areas within Europe, where the disease is endemic, is putting the Welsh agricultural industry at significant risk.

He said: "While the current focus remains on vaccinating and protecting against BTV8, the rapid spread of other strains - in particular BTV1 - is also a major cause for concern, given the current supplies of and demand for vaccine against all strains.

"There has been less than three weeks since Wales was declared a BTV8 protection zone to allow vaccination to take place. Therefore, allowing imports from high-risk Bluetongue areas within Europe, when the vaccine has not yet had sufficient time to trigger immunity in many animals, is nonsensical.

"We believe that all movements of animals from high to low risk zones should be banned until sufficient time has passed to allow farmers to have vaccinated against the relevant strains of BTV, and for those vaccines to have taken effect.

"While we recognise that the movement of infected midges represents the major vector for the disease, livestock movements have the potential to introduce the disease into new areas that are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the original source of infection.

"Given the small number of cases detected in the UK, and the fact that no strains of the disease are currently believed to be circulating in Wales, the FUW believes that the current rules regarding animal movements between zones should be urgently reviewed to minimise the risk of various strains of the disease causing untold suffering and economical damage."

Mr Vaughan added that the union believes that in cases where animals test positive for the disease in low risk areas, where it is not known to be in circulation, the relevant authorities should be required to slaughter those animals as a preventative measure.

He ended the letter by stressing that considering the rapid spread of all strains of BTV during the past year, it is imperative that urgent action is taken to further protect livestock throughout the European Union and prevent the spread of Bluetongue.

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