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Farming

The way forward for Bovine TB?

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Welsh Dairy Show seminar: FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright and AHDB’s Technical Manager for Breeding and Fertility, Andrew Dodd

BOVINE TB breakdowns in dairy and beef cattle continue to be a sore point amongst farmers in Wales. Despite copious eradication programmes over the years, the disease continues to cause both emotional and financial difficulties, bringing many farming families to their knees.

October1 saw a significant shift in the Welsh Government’s bovine TB eradication programme and, as was expected, the new ‘Refreshed’ programme remains heavily focussed on cattle control measures and many of the new measures pay particular attention to chronic breakdown herds that have sufferedwith bovine TB for more than 18 months.

Whilst various different approaches are included in the most recent Welsh bovine TB eradication programme, the role of genetics in mitigating the effects of bovine TB has also recently come to the forefront of disease eradication discussions.

The initial research into the genetics of bTB was undertaken jointly by the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and supported by Defra and the Welsh Government.

Their work showed there is genetic variation between animals and it established the degree of heritability of bTB resistance. AHDB Dairy corroborated these findings with its research partners, SRUC and Roslin; funded the implementation of a genetic index, and embedded the TB Advantage into the national genetic evaluation service.

In addition, they have identified regions of the bovine genome associated with resistance and have shown that genomic selection for cattle with improved resistance is feasible without interfering with the current skin test for tuberculosis.

Shedding further light on the issue was AHDB’s Technical Manager for Breeding and Fertility, Andrew Dodd, who spoke at a seminar on genetic selection for bovine TB resistance, organised by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, at the Welsh Dairy Show.

He said: “Dairy farmers make breeding decisions based on a number of factors and since the launch of our TB Advantage​ ​genetic index last year, they can now think about improved resistance to bovine tuberculosis. This is great news for those in high-risk areas but should also be considered as a wider breeding policy by all farmers as a broader eradication strategy.”

The FUW continues to highlight that current levels of Bovine TB in Wales are in excess of what will be acceptable to other EU countries when the UK is outside the single market and the Union is deeply concerned that the current disease status has the potential to be a challenging negotiation tool.

“These findings are encouraging as they could potentially allow some defence against bovine TB through selective breeding,” said FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright.

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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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