23rd November 2012 – NSA Members' Update

By Suffolk Sheep Society 26th November, 2012

NSA launches plan for new health and welfare payment for farmers, Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG) provides very successful inaugural conference, Investigate poor scanning results and don't assume they are SBV-related, Avoid over-finishing lambs and take action to help grass recover from wet weather – two messages from Eblex, Don't forget there are still some dates left on the Moredun Roadshow, Part-time farmer turned successful farm businessman to speak at Greenmount College Centenary Sheep Event and NSA EVENTS DIARY.

NSA launches plan for new health and welfare payment for farmers.

The NSA has officially announced its desire for a new health and welfare scheme to operate in England, Wales, Scotland and NI under the new CAP regime. Given the ever-shrinking pot of Pillar 1 funding (Single Farm Payment) it would allow livestock farmers to access money from Pillar 2, if they earn enough points from a menu of best practice initiatives (similar to how agri-environment schemes operate).

While it would depend on Government enthusiasm, and Brussels approval, the NSA suggest farmers would be able to score point for such things as health planning, advisory visits from their vet, involvement in voluntary monitoring and health schemes, optional biosecurity measures and effective disease quarantine procedures. This should meet Brussels’ requirement for Pillar 2 schemes, as it would provide public goods in the form of healthier animals that are more efficient and, therefore , producing more food with a smaller carbon footprint. This is particularly important at a time when world population and demand for food is growing exponentially, yet resource constraints and climate change are putting huge pressure on farmers around the world. It is also appropriate for the UK, where domestic animal health and welfare budgets are already under immense pressure and face further cuts backs as the Government’s spending review continues.

Launching the concept at the Sheep Health and Welfare Conference on Wednesday (21st November), Mr Stocker said: “Pillar Two of CAP already has point-based agri-environment schemes, which farmers are familiar with and utilise to farm hand-in-hand with the environment and provide a huge amount of public goods. NSA believes an animal health scheme along the same lines would provide much-needed funding to help farmers invest and really build on the strong track-record the UK already has in animal health and welfare. And given the link between good health and increased production levels, such as scheme would not only provide public goods in further improving health and welfare standards, but also increase output, be it of meat or milk, and encourage farmers to maintain or even increase flock and herd sizes.”

The NSA has gained support from many other stakeholder groups for this concept and is already taking steps to continue engagement with Defra and others.

Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG) provides very successful inaugural conference.

The Sheep Health and Welfare Conference, which was organised in collaboration with NSA, attracted more than 200 people on Wednesday – a range of farmers, vet, SQPs and other industry representatives. A discussion on sheep scab resulted in SHAWG agreeing that an industry-led control programme for scab would be its priority going forward.

There were a range of excellent speakers, with Gloucestershire farmer Hilary Mann making a very positive impression when she accompanies Lesley Stubbings on stage to explain how she was putting Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) principles into practice. She said had reduced by 50% the number of times she was now worming ewes and lambs but was still achieving excellent performance – scanning at 200%, lambing in late March, rearing 175% and selling 90% of lambs by the end of September at an average of 19.25kg deadweight.

Investigate poor scanning results and don’t assume they are SBV-related.

NSA is hearing of reports from some scanners in some regions (definitely not all scanners in all regions) of high levels of empty ewes. With Schmallenberg (SBV) high on people’s minds it is easy to relate the two – and reports of this may well appear in the press in the coming week or more. However it is too early to jump to conclusions on this and with the weather experienced over the spring, summer and autumn it is clear that the health of some ewes is compromised through less than ideal nutrition and a high internal parasite burden, particularly liver fluke.

This is a year when testing and monitoring of dung samples and bloods could pay off even more than usual to pick up problems quickly and accurately and treat accordingly. Blood-testing for SBV will not give a clear picture relating to empty ewes as antibodies could have been present for some time. The best approach is to talking to your vet and make use of the information on the SCOPS website, which can be accessed here.

Avoid over-finishing lambs and take action to help grass recover from wet weather – two messages from Eblex.

Eblex says lambs slaughtered in autumn and winter are traditionally over-far, and this year could present even more of a problem, with many lambs carried over into the New Year when in more favourable years they would not. Urging farmers to select stock appropriately to hit the broadest market sector, Steve Powdrill of Eblex recommends batching lambs according to size and finish levels and sell when ready in a timely and orderly way.

He says:“If we look at the hogget trade earlier this year, lambs at 42kg were making 215p/kg liveweight in the spring, grossing at £90.30. Lambs taken onto heavier weights, with fewer market outlets, were discounted. For example, the average for a 47kg lamb in mid-March was 20p less and those hoggets that were taken to over 52kg saw the average slip a further 20p, averaging 175p per kg grossing or £91 per head. This is a trend that is likely to continue. With current high feed costs and tight winter forage supplies, which is more important, pence per kg or pounds per head?”

Eblex have also issued a warning about water-logged fields this week, saying farmers need to act now and undertake a grass MOT to assess damage and help prioritise action. An EBLEX Grass MOT document is available here, as well as a flood awareness document.

Don’t forget there are still some dates left on the Moredun Roadshow - visit www.moredun.org.uk/events

Part-time farmer turned successful farm businessman to speak at Greenmount College Centenary Sheep Event.

The Greenmount Colege Centenary Sheep Event on 5th December (which also includes the NSA NI AGM – see below) will include a presentation from Russell Scott, a young farmer who has increased his family’s flock, taken on more land and increased lambs sold from 1.6/ewe to 2/ewe for his Texel and Suffolk cross Blackface ewes. He will speak about:-

  • Selecting stock for prolificacy, including only breeding from lambs that were a twin or triplet themselves, and only using rams that were a twin or triplet themselves.
  • Condition scoring every 10-14 days pre-tupping and flushing ewes at a condition score of 2.75.
  • Reducing stress at tupping and immediately after to reduce embryonic losses.
  • Proactively approaching mineral supplementation and parasite control.

Book a place on 028944 26770 or rebecca.coalter@dardni.gov.uk before Wednesday (28th November).


NSA South West Open Meeting: Monday 3rd December at the Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, EX17 6DF.

A meeting with three speakers, open to members and non-members and followed by a supper. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker will speak, as well as Brian Dallyn from the British Wool Marketing Board and also Bill Harper of Harpers Home Mix on the challenges facing the ewe flock during tupping and as the lambing season approaches.

NSA Northern Ireland AGM: Wednesday 5th December at Greenmount College.

NSA NI has teamed up with Greenmount College to combine its AGM with a farm walk and conference. The day will start at 11am with a look around Abbey Farm, followed by lunch and then two guest speakers. These will be Russell Scott of Newtownstewart, the current and inaugural Farming Life Sheep Farmer of the Year, and Michael Blanche of Perthshire, who used his 2011 Nuffield Scholarship to look at ‘The Farming Ladder’ and starting in the industry from scratch with not owned land. The AGM will follow on, at around 4.30pm. More details from Edward Adamson on 07711 071290 or edward.adamson1@gmail.com.

NSA Central Region Winter Fair: Thursday 24th January 2013 at Bakewell Auction Mart (by kind permission of Derbyshire Dales District Council).

For enquiries speak to Bob and Anne Payne of the Central Region on 01142 883241 or 07803 744437, or Helen Davies, Event Organiser, on 01938 590535 or 07976 803066. Booking forms for trade stands and breed societies can be found here.

NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.

NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 27th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre.


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