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Farming

Chief vet: ‘bTB at 10 year low’

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BTB has ‘a wildlife reservoir of infection’: Christianne Glossop.

THE CHIEF Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, has said new incidents of bovine TB are at a 10 year low as she addressed some of the misconceptions about the disease picture in Wales.

Speaking at NFU Cymru’s Pembrokeshire Annual General Meeting on Thursday, January 26, the Chief Vet highlighted the progress made, with over 95% of Wales’ herds now TB free.

The Chief Vet also pointed to the increase in cattle slaughtered and stressed that although still a cause for concern, it did not reflect a worsening situation as is often reported.

Instead, the rise is due to an increase in the use of the more sensitive gamma interferon blood test and more severe interpretation of the skin test, both of which are flagging infected cattle in herds with a history of bovine TB at an earlier stage.

This increased sensitivity of testing helps to identify infection sooner and reduces the spread of the disease. The number of cattle slaughtered is expected to fall over time as a result of this approach, and as the number of infected herds continues to reduce.

The Chief Vet also highlighted the Cabinet Secretary’s position on controlling the disease in wildlife, saying an ‘England-style’ cull had been ruled out in Wales.

The Randomised Badger Culling Trial in England showed a net reduction of 16% of new incidents of bovine TB over nine years. In Wales, the number of new incidents recorded has reduced by 47% in eight years through application of increased testing frequency, improved biosecurity and other cattle control measures alone.

However, it is recognised that in a number of long term TB breakdowns, the disease picture points towards a wildlife reservoir of infection.

As a result the Cabinet Secretary has proposed a measured response to controlling the disease in wildlife in Wales. Focussing on these persistent TB breakdowns, where it can be objectively proven badgers are infected, it is proposed the infected groups of badgers are trapped and humanely killed.

The Chief Veterinary Officer reported that work has already started to develop bespoke action plans for each herd, including addressing any wildlife contribution to the problem.

Speaking at the conference, Christianne Glossop said: “We all recognise bovine TB has a significant financial and social impact on farm businesses and the wider rural economy. While it is encouraging to see the number of new herd incidents falling, even in our highest incidence areas, I recognise this is of little comfort to the farms currently suffering a TB breakdown. This is why we are focusing our efforts on eliminating the disease in affected herds.

“The public consultation on our proposed Refreshed Approach to TB eradication is now closed and we welcome the responses we have received. We are committed to eradicating the disease in Wales, but we cannot do this alone. It’s encouraging NFU Cymru has welcomed the plans for a regionalised approach, as this is aimed at protecting the low incidence area while bearing down on the disease elsewhere. This will help us to build on the progress made so far as we progress towards our ambition of a TB-free Wales.”

The refreshed programme is expected to be published in the spring.

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Farming

Last Golden Eagle of Wales found dead

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WALES will no longer see the golden eagle fly through the skies after the last of its kind was found dead by a walker in Abergwesyn Valley, near Llanwrtyd Wells.

The Golden Eagle was native to Wales, Europe and North America and due to human persecution had begun to die out, the last breeding pair being found in Snowdonia in 1850. It is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, but unfortunately Wales will not see the bird in action for a very long time.

The female bird of prey was being watched and followed by the presenter of Spring Watch, Iolo Williams, and will appear in the last episode of the latest show ‘Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales.’

The company behind the television show which captures the highlights of Welsh wildlife, Aden Productions, commented on the extinction of the Golden Eagle. Taking to twitter, a statement read:
“Our whole crew was shocked and saddened to hear about the demise of our beloved Cambrians golden eagle, the last golden eagle to fly wild in Wales. We hope our final episode of Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales is a fitting tribute to her.”

It is still not known how the female bird died, leaving questions for bird lovers, but plans are being made by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales project to reintroduce the bird of prey back into Welsh wildlife is under way. However, it is explained that this is not a simple process. They will firstly need Natural Resource Wales to issue a license which does take time.

The Golden Eagle has not left the UK completely and can still be found in the far North of Scotland.

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Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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Farming

New Flock and Herd Health Officers

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has appointed two new Flock and Herd Health Officers to its ambitious five-year Red Meat Development Programme, designed to equip Wales’s lamb and beef industry for a changing future.

The posts are key to delivering the programme’s commitment to helping farmers achieve on-farm efficiency and drive best practice in proactive animal health planning.

The programme is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Lowri Reed hails from a farming background near Llanon in central Ceredigion, whereas Lowri Williams is from Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth, and is a graduate in Animal Management and Welfare from Harper Adams University.

Dr Rebekah Stuart, the coordinator of the Flock and Herd Health Project at HCC, said: “We’re delighted to have recruited two officers with experience and knowledge of agriculture and flock management to this important strand of work.

“There are few things that can have as great an impact on the efficiency and bottom line of a livestock enterprise as a proactive and coordinated approach to animal health and eradicating disease.

“The project will help farmers to work with vets to put health plans in place and monitor their effectiveness. Since opening an initial expression of interest window late last year at the Winter Fair, we’re encouraged by how many farmers are keen to be involved. We look forward to working with them to put this exciting project into action.”

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