NSA Members Update 7th December 2012

By Suffolk Sheep Society 10th December, 2012

Rumours rife about effect of Schmallenberg on early lambing flocks – but lack of firm evidence puts industry in very difficult position, Bitter disappointment that procurement process for English sheep movement database will have to be repeated, Sustainable lamb trial suggests New Zealand genetics could improve UK sheep industry efficiency, Free dog neutering and micro-chipping offer for Welsh farmers, New on-line lamb adoption service on offer, New courses to help farmers find alternatives to ‘business-as-usual' and NSA EVENTS DIARY

Rumours rife about effect of Schmallenberg on early lambing flocks – but lack of firm evidence puts industry in very difficult position.

Following hot on the heels of rumours of Schmallenberg (SBV) causing low scanning rates, the talk is now of high losses in early lambing flocks. The consequences for the farmers affected are terrible, but it is absolutely essential that any suspected cases are tested with the aim of identifying whether SBV is definitely the culprit. Just as fluke and poor nutrition can also cause low scanning rates, there other issues that can cause losses at lambing time.

While it is not paying for testing in counties that have already had Schmallenberg confirmed, AHVLA is stressing that the cost of £6 per test of blood, body fluid or brain is a subsidised price. However, farmers will have to pay for their vet’s time on top of that.

NSA is in regular contact with MSD Animal Health regarding the vaccine, but there is no update yet on when it will be available. We are also very concerned that we will not know how best to use the vaccine when it does come on sale (i.e. vaccinate whole flock versus specific animals), so NSA is working on possible alternatives to gathering best practice information, given that AHVLA is not collecting data. We hope to be able to provide more on this in next week’s update.

It is a very frustrating situation and the lack of information is creating a lot of anger and unease – but we do urge members to treat anecdotal accounts of losses with a pinch of salt, test where appropriate and be assured that we will do our best to keep you all updated.

Bitter disappointment that procurement process for English sheep movement database will have to be repeated.

Defra decided this week that it would not proceed with the award of the movement database contract, as procedural mistakes during the procurement process (specifically when bidders were asked to re-tender, as the highest scoring bid could not be afforded) breached legal requirements. Defra says it still aims to have a new reporting system available by April 2014, but how this will be achieved remains very unclear.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We are bitterly disappointed that it seems Defra’s procedural mistakes have led to a new procurement process. For Government departments not to have learnt from the west coast trains fiasco seems incomprehensible and, unlike with Virgin Trains, the English sheep sector does not have an existing supplier to fall back on. This means we continue to be at disease spread risk and may even be at more of a risk, as several Local Authorities have only committed to inputting data manually in the understanding that a database would soon be available. The delay also means farmers will have to wait even longer for implementation of much needed Macdonald recommendations to reduce red tape.

“This is one of the most important strategic developments for our sheep industry yet industry representative bodies such as NSA are not being adequately communicated with or involved in the process. Given what has now happened we would like to see Defra engage with us and other stakeholder groups as a matter of urgency, to discuss again the best way forward.”

Sustainable lamb trial suggests New Zealand genetics could improve UK sheep industry efficiency

Marks and Spencer issued a press release on Wednesday (5th December) suggesting New Zealand genetics (Highlander and Primera) could ‘improve UK sheep industry efficiency’.

The supermarket was referring to results of a project carried out by Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), conducted in Scotland and supported by M&S, Focus Genetics and Linden Foods. The full report can be found by clicking here, and M&S says the work was not aimed at replacing traditional UK production systems with New Zealand’s ‘successful lamb production model’ but to ‘establish baseline information to allow producers to make their own informed decisions’.

The project was reported on at Greenmount College’s Centenary Sheep Event on Wednesday, a day-long conference that was supported by NSA NI and will be reported on in the Jan/Feb issue of Sheep Farmer magazine.

Free dog neutering and micro-chipping offer for Welsh farmers.

The Dogs Trust has contacted the NSA to draw attention to a free campaign in Wales for farm dogs to be neutered and micro-chipped free-of-change. Interested NSA members should contact their vet or call the Dogs Trust on 07932 115750.

The Dogs Trust says: “Neutering does not affect your dog’s ability to work, not does it cause a decrease in energy levels or lead to weight gain. Your working dog will be more focused on his job instead of getting distracted by other dogs, and your female dog won’t need to have time away from her job due to being in heat. Your dogs will be happier and healthier – and neutering decreases the chances of womb infection and cancer, so less vets bills for you!”

New on-line lamb adoption service on offer.

Having offered a free lamb adoption service to Irish sheep farmers for the last 10 years, the Farm-Link website is expanding the service to the UK mainland too.Farmers needing lambs or ewes, or offering lambs or ewes, should visit www.farm-link.com and follow the links to the lamb adoption page.

New courses to help farmers find alternatives to ‘business-as-usual’.

A new series of workshops and distance learning options are now available from Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities’ Advanced Training Partnership (ATP), focusing on challenges in the sheep, beef and dairy sectors, and potential solutions that are financially and environmentally sustainable and efficient. Details at www.atp-pasture.org.uk, 01970 823224 or atp-enquiries@aber.ac.uk. The two new modules available in early 2013 are:-

  • Carbon Footprint and Life Cycle Assessment:looking at how carbon is accounted for and the business risks and opportunities in a low carbon economy.
  • Ruminant Nutrition: looking at improving feed conversion to reduce costs and environmental footprints.

NSA EVENTS DIARY(all 2013 NSA events, including next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here)


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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