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Discussing optimal dairy systems:​ FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Chairman Dai Miles and Gwyn Jones, AHDB dairy board chairman​

A SEMINAR organised by the Farmers’ Union of Wales has provided an opportunity for Welsh dairy farmers to come together and air their views on a recently published AHDB paper which outlines the need for ‘optimal dairy systems’ in the British dairy sector.

Leading the discussions at the Welsh Dairy Show was Gwyn Jones, AHDB dairy board chairman, who highlighted the likelihood the industry will be open to more competition, less support and increased volatility in the future. He emphasised that there will be opportunities too, since the UK was an ideal country for producing milk, due to the climate, structure and the fact that there were good farmers in the sector.

In his talk, he stressed that the way forward for the sector was to be inspirational, efficient and prepare for the future.

He discussed AHDB’s recently published approach focusing on two systems – block calving where all cows calve within a 12-week window and All year round calving with no seasonal emphasis on calving.

“Block calving herds typically have lower overall costs of production, can be simpler to operate and can have lifestyle benefits, depending on land suitability, housing and location.

“The best AYR producers can achieve production costs comparable with block-calving and higher output can bring greater income. But the system can bring complexity making it harder to spot weaknesses in performance,” said Gwyn Jones.

“In Britain, over 80% of dairy farmers identify themselves as all-year-round calvers. This raises a question as to whether this is a conscious decision based on every farmer deciding what is the best system for them, or whether the system has just evolved.”

He emphasised that all production systems could be profitable and could work well, but the important issue was to attain a balance of production from all herds across the sector, in order to meet buyer and processor requirements.

“Many processors desire a relatively flat milk production profile from their milk pool; this does not mean that all farms should have the same production profile but rather that the collective profile needs to be flat.

“This could mean a balance between spring and autumn calving herds. A joined up industry approach would offer flexibility to farmers, whilst still meeting the needs of the processors,” said Gwyn Jones.

Comparing the relevant cost of production and margins achieved from each of the systems he highlighted that according to AHDB, spring calving herds typically achieved an extra margin of 2.4 pence per litre (ppl) above year-round calvers. For autumn calvers this was 1.3ppl.

He stressed that irrespective of the chosen system, all farmers should concentrate their business analyses on the full economic cost of production, the return on capital and the profit retained.

AHDB is changing its delivery to showcase and highlight what the best performers are doing under either system and identify the KPIs that are critical to performance.

Additional strategic dairy farms are being recruited to demonstrate best practice and encourage farmer to farmer learning. Farmbench will be rolled out to the dairy sector in the New Year to help farmers understand and compare their full costs of production at both enterprise and whole-farm level.

“We are asking farmers to approach 2019 with their eyes open. The choice of system is down to individual farmers, but what is important is that they understand their current system, hold a mirror up to themselves and make a conscious decision on which system is optimal for them,” said Gwyn Jones.

Responding to the suggestion that the dairy sector should review its systems and management style in order to prepare itself for potential Brexit problems, was FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Chairman Dai Miles.

“Before we change our dairy systems and increase our production, we need to have greater processing capability in Wales. The latest Welsh Government-commissioned report on processing in the Welsh dairy sector concludes that processing expansion should be ‘more of the same’ which means more low-value cheese production – that attitude is at best disappointing and not in the slightest innovative.”

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Last Golden Eagle of Wales found dead



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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Big Farmland Bird Count returns




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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New Flock and Herd Health Officers




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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