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Maedi Visna threat ever present

Maedi Visna continues to pose a constant challenge for the UK sheep industry, with recent tests revealing that 25% of ewes tested for the disease were suffering from it. As a result, sheep farmers are being urged to consider the cause of ill thrift in ewes more urgently this autumn.

The tests, conducted by SAC Consulting Vet Services on flocks throughout England, were mainly in crossbred and Mule flocks, with owners reporting ewes being thin, breathless and sometimes lame. In flocks tested ewe mortality rates were increased and lambing percentages and growth rates reduced.  

Maedi Visna is a chronic viral disease which was introduced into the UK through imported sheep. It has since spread, especially in commercial flocks. The condition is highly contagious, difficult to diagnose and is fatal.

Flock owners seeing any signs of sill thrift in their ewes this autumn are, therefore, being urged to investigate any cases of ill-thrift in ewes with their vet.  

“Ewes should be in good condition at tupping this year given the good weather we have seen this autumn” says Brian Hosie, head of SAC Consulting Vet Services. “This makes it all the more important farmers quickly work out why some ewes may not be performing”.

Farmers worried about their flock should condition score their ewes and manage them accordingly; this will allow them to identify ewes which are not improving.

There are many diseases other than MV that can cause ill-thrift in sheep flocks. These include liver fluke, worms, trace element deficiency, Johne’s Disease and OPA/Jaagsiekte.  

Vet surgeons can find out what is causing ill thrift through collecting samples of faeces or blood for analysis or through arranging for some animals to be examined post mortem. Often more than one condition is responsible, however, the results will allow flock owners and shepherds to set up a suitable treatment and control programme for the flock.

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For the third year running, NSA Next Generation and Innovation for Agriculture is running an event to inspire future sheep farmers. This year’s ‘Getting on the sheep farming ladder’ open day for young people with a passion for the sheep sector will be at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0AH, on Wednesday 28th October.

The event will kick off with guest speakers, followed by practical work-stations through the late morning and afternoon. Those attending will be able to decide which stations to go to, to pick up specific skills relevant to their sheep farming interests. Thanks to the generous support of Caltech Crystalyx, this year there will also be the optional extra for attendees to complete the day at the company’s nearby facilities, where a factory tour and hearty meal will be provided. This will deliver an insight into Caltech Crystalyx’s UK-wide set-up, as well as providing a light-hearted and social way to finish the day. Joanne Briggs, NSA Communications Manager, says: “The event is aimed at anyone with an enthusiasm for the sheep sector and, with everything from grassland management to sheep health included within the work stations, there will be something for everyone. It will also be a unique opportunity to meet people with similar interests and learn from them too, as well as find out more about applying to be an NSA 2016 Next Generation Ambassador. So whether you have been born onto a family farm or are a new entrant, I am sure it will be a good way to spend the day.” The event is free to attend and open to all, but pre-registration is required. Click here for more details.

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Levy boards promote lamb as price pressure holds

With lamb prices still under pressure across the UK both the English and Welsh levy boards have been investing in promotional activities to drive sales.

Welsh promotional body HCC has run a two season, multi-media promotion of PGI Welsh Lamb since July. This broad, multi-media campaign really seems to have caught the imagination of the industry, shoppers and the passing public,”said Laura Pickup, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) Market Development Manager.

The campaign included a touring mobile billboard, a cooking demonstration roadshow, a PR and social media blitz and a television advert that, when it finishes airing in October, will have been viewed an estimated 15 million times.

“The 30-second advert is expected to notch 15m viewings with up to 7m people spotting it on 26 different TV channels, while our consumer PR work since July has reached many more, as its £1.4m advertising spend equivalent indicates.

“The digital advertising campaign reached a total of 864,000 households across four regions in August alone and the consumer social media campaign earned 250,000 impressions across two months – a 266% in social media impressions on the previous two months.

“We know hundreds of thousands of shoppers spotted our mobile billboard – we have more than 100,000 acknowledgments from social media alone – as it visited 77 shopping locations across Wales and England and more will attend the Welsh Lamb cooking roadshow,” said Mrs Pickup.

HCC fast-tracked the two-season marketing blitz when UK lamb prices dropped after being hit by a set of external forces – including a glut of imports and a strong pound that affected exports. It was launched in July, two months earlier than usual.

“This really is a brilliant response to our campaign,” said HCC Chairman, Dai Davies. “HCC is driven to differentiate our PGI status and premium world class products from those of our competitors. This year’s summer and autumn advertising campaign is doing just that.”

Meanwhile, AHDB Beef and Lamb is launching a  new £1 million TV and online advertising campaign this autumn to promote Quality Standard Mark (QSM) and Red Tractor lamb and beef.

AHDB Beef & Lamb’s ‘Jetpack Journey Home’ advertisement, which was first aired last year, returns to the screen to air nationally in November.

It will promote lamb and beef mini-roasts as a quick, easy and versatile midweek meal and is being supported by extensive digital and press advertising and PR campaign as part of a wider £1.6 million consumer marketing campaign to promote lamb and beef consumption.

The five-week multi-channel campaign – featuring 10 and 30-second versions of the advertisements – is scheduled to run from the week commencing November 2 on ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. It will again feature the ‘#miniroast. Why wait ‘til Sunday?’ message, underlining that consumers can enjoy lamb and beef roasts as a quick, simple and nutritious midweek meal option.

Other activity undertaken by AHDB Beef & Lamb includes the student society-style ‘LambSoc’ social media campaign to raise the profile of lamb as an exciting meal option and the benefits of cooking with it. Aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds, LambSoc has attracted more than 19,000 people through its Facebook channel, along with further followers on Twitter and YouTube.

To support Red Tractor week, AHDB Beef & Lamb have worked in partnership with Red Tractor Assurance to produce a digital marketing campaign to support quality lamb.  The ‘Max and Maggie’ campaign will run across a number of sites targeted at mums age 25-45 and across social media. 

The digital ads feature Max and his sheep dog Maggie who are campaigning for mums to cook family meals with lamb to help keep his dream of being a sheep farmer alive. All ads and social activity will carry #maxloveslamb as a sign off.

Jane Ritchie-Smith, AHDB Beef & Lamb head of consumer marketing, said: “The issue of lamb price, in particular, is well documented at the moment and we have been working extremely hard to promote home-grown product.

“The national TV advertising has always been part of our cohesive consumer marketing work to stimulate demand for Red Tractor and Quality Standard lamb and beef." 

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NADIS - Parasite Forecast and Disease Alert - October

Liver fluke forecast for Cattle and Sheep, Lice, PGE, BVD and Gid – NADIS October Webinars

October webinars are out now - out click here to view

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Scottish National Sale review videos

This year's Scottish National Sale, Lanark, saw a top price of 70,000gns and a 78% clearance rate, with 384 ram lambs finding new homes at an average price of £2313.64. See this year's video reviews of the top prices for all the action.

The video of lambs making more than 14,000gns can be seen here, while the video of lambs making between 5000gns and 14,000gns can be seen here.

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Texel - Farmers Guardian Stock Judging Competition 2015

For the second year in succession the Texel Sheep Society and the Farmers Guardian have joined forces to hold a virtual Stock Judging Competition. Entry was available in numerous editions of the Farmers Guardian and at various agricultural shows and events throughout the summer.

The Judge of the competition is highly respected and renowned Texel breeder Mr John McKerrow - Grougfoot Texels, West Lothian.  John’s selection is shown below with a brief explanation for his decision.

X - Placed first as showing great breed character, the widest and deepest, well fleshed with a tremendous back end.

A - Although longer this one lacked the character of the previous tup.

Y - This one was a long clean tup but lacked the gigot of the previous two tups

B - Lacked the length of the other Tups, deeper off his middle, poorer off his legs.

The competition has been very popular with several hundred entries received by the Farmers Guardian and the Texel Society. Those agreeing with John’s selection were put in a very large hat from which the winner was drawn along with five runners up.

Winning the £250 + a Texel body warmer & beanie hat was Eirian Jones of Waungochen, Carmarthen.

The five runners up were George Allan of Bogside Farm, East Ayrshire; Casey Campbell of Wild Boar Clough Farm, Holmfirth; Milly Hendy of Wodlands Farm, Bristol; Kirree Kermode of Orrisdale Farm, Isle of Man and Ellen Williams of Bron Y Gadair, Criccieth who each received a Texel Goody bag. 

John judging the real thing 

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StockTech provides simple solutions for farmers at Smithfield Festival

Supporting commercial farmers by providing the tools and ideas required to drive their businesses forward efficiently, is the focus of the new StockTech area at the Smithfield Festival this November.

“Producing stock efficiently has never been more important, as farmers feel the pressure of ever fluctuating prices for prime stock,” says William Haire, East of England Showground agricultural development manager.

“We will be supporting progressive producers who want to keep up-to-date with the latest industry developments, with a new StockTech area at the festival this year.

“Practical and simple solutions that use precision technology and innovative techniques can help us all to make efficiencies within our own sheep and beef businesses,” says Mr Haire.

“StockTech is all about delivering modern precision farming technology and concepts in a practical way. There is much research and development undertaken on behalf of the industry, and it’s important we take every opportunity to get a close look at the results and these fresh ideas where it can help us to produce stock as resourcefully as possible.”

The organising committee at the East of England are passionate about safeguarding the traditional values of the Smithfield Festival, whilst at the same time ensuring that the festival on the 26 and 27 November is relevant and useful for the modern sheep and beef producer.

“Working with a wide range of industry partners within the StockTech zone, there will be a variety of experts on hand, alongside demonstrations and seminars of an advisory, educational and practical nature.

“There will be something for everyone; challenging ideas for existing stock keepers, alongside guidance for arable farmers in the region who may be considering diversifying and looking for some helpful advice. Anyone who wants to learn about best practice and new and innovative methods of producing stock, should visit StockTech,” concludes Mr Haire.

Festival organisers, the East of England Agricultural Society, have confirmed that exhibitor and trade stand packs are now available, and those exhibitors who have stock entered in LiveScot can be accommodated with an early exit.

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Practical seminar line-up at Smithfield Festival

Practical advice that can be applied to any farming business is the key theme throughout the seminar line-up at this year’s East of England Smithfield Festival in November.

The seminar schedule will include sessions on red meat marketing, breeding management, introducing beef and sheep enterprises to an arable business, animal health planning, as well as contract-rearing options. 

Show Director, William Haire explains that the seminars will cover topical aspects of livestock production. “At a time when everyone across the sector is focusing on being as efficient as possible and driving their businesses forward, it is important that we explore every opportunity to see where we can make improvements and utilize all the resources that are available to us. 

“Often the simplest changes can make the biggest difference to our farms. The seminars will focus on providing those practical solutions that are relevant to everyone producing beef and lamb regardless of scale or experience.” 

There will be a comprehensive range of beef and sheep topics up for discussion both in the seminars and in the help-desk area, with experts in a number of legislative and advisory capacities on hand to answer individual enquiries. 

AHDB Beef and Lamb scientist Dr Liz Genever will talk visitors through the setting up of a rotational grazing system for beef or sheep, and how this could work within an arable farm. 

Adam Buitelaar from Buitelaar International trading will explain some of the opportunities with contract rearing and finishing of diary origin calves, while West Point vets will cover the various steps to creating and implementing an animal health plan. 

“While the Festival is located in an area primarily recognised for arable production, there are a considerable number of large scale beef and lamb enterprises in the region with the potential for many more. The benefit of grazing sheep and cattle is widely acknowledged and their place in an arable rotation can be of significant benefit to overall farm profitability,” says Mr Haire.

“There will be something for everyone,” explains AHDB Beef and Lamb South East/East Regional Manager, Nerys Wright, who is leading a seminar session on the red meat prospects for the coming year. 

“Export opportunities are quite challenging at the moment, and we can expect beef supplies to tighten up going forward. So, we need to fully appreciate that UK beef and lamb are commodities that are heavily impacted upon by what’s happening on the other side of the world, and export trade is an important part of that.” 

Mrs Wright explains that as an industry, we still only get 60% of our lambs presented for slaughter at the correct specification. “If we could get 80% of lambs ‘in spec’, then it would go a long way towards helping producers to get better returns at the farm gate. 

“We look forward to some lively discussion on all of these issues and are sure that visitors will leave the event with some new ideas and practical solutions to help their livestock businesses.”

The East of England Smithfield Festival, takes place on 26 and 27 November at the East of England Showground, Peterborough.



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NADIS - Parasite Forecast and Disease Alert - September

Liver fluke forecast, quarantine purchased stock, swayback and worms in lambs, lungworm and oestrus not observed in cattle - NADIS September Webinars.

September webinars are now out - click here to view.


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Largest ever Texel export heads to Switzerland

The largest ever exportation in recent years of British Texels is heading to Switzerland having been selected on farms in Scotland in June this year by an inward mission of Swiss breeders who also visited the Royal Highland Show.

A total of 51 Texel shearling ewes and shearling rams will make up the consignment, with stock coming from the Cambwell flock of the Laird family, the Garngour, Clarks and Teiglum flocks of the Clark family, the Culter Allers flock of the McCosh family and the Watchknowe flock of the Warnock family.

The Lairds are sending 14 shearling ewes and seven shearling rams, with the Clarks contributing a further 14 shearling ewes and three shearling rams. The McCosh family’s export consists of seven shearling ewes and one shearling ram, while five shearling ewes will head to Switzerland from the Warnock family.

Commenting on the export Robert Laird of the Cambwell flock said the sale followed on from exports to Switzerland over the last few years sourced from across the UK and reflected the growing interest in the breed in Switzerland and Eastern Europe.

“The Swiss buyers are very clear in the type of sheep they are looking for, they want correct sheep with good carcasses and sharp, alert sheep. Importantly the sheep they buy also have to be either scrapie monitored or scrapie type one. They are also keen on performance figures, ideally wanting sheep in the top 10% of the breed.”

British Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates said the export confirmed the success of British Texels in Europe and was one of a number of exports taking place this year. “We continue to invite and host inward missions from a number of EU countries with potential buyers eager to source top British genetics.

“The relationship with the Swiss breeders has been built over a number of years, with UK breeders also visiting Switzerland during our 40th Anniversary last year.  The Society have been instrumental in opening new markets for the breed which has also benefited the industry as a whole as other breeds often follow up with sales. We continue to lobby for new health certification for new and developing markets, primarily focusing on semen and embyros.

“Recent successes have resulted in certification for South America, in particular for embryos and semen to Brazil with a focus now on Uruguay. Our efforts are currently focused on supporting efforts from DEFRA UKECP for certification with New Zealand, which will open up a holy grail with demand for proven high performance genetics by NZ producers.

“The breed’s success in Europe following previous exports has driven demand further, with shipments to both existing and new breeders in a wide range of countries. The Texel’s adaptability is a key point for buyers, with the ability of Texels to thrive in a wide range of climates and farming systems making them well suited to the diverse nature of sheep farming across Europe and indeed the world.”

Mr Yates said the continued investment by British breeders in improving both type and performance in the breed was to be commended and had resulted in keen interest from across the globe. “Performance recording coupled with high levels of stockmanship continue to drive the breed forward and ensure British Texels are preferred choice for overseas buyers looking to improve flock productivity.”

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