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    Sunshine and Smiles at Welsh Sheep 2007
24/05/07

Glorious sunshine helped to cheer one of the best ever crowds at NSA Welsh Sheep 2007. Attendance was close on 4,000 as sheep producers headed for Graig Farm, Cross Ash, near Abergavenny, for an informative and entertaining day on Wednesday 23 May.

Welsh Sheep 2007 host,
Nigel Turner

Welsh Sheep 2007 host, Nigel Turner

A major attraction was the Farm Tour and farmers and their families queued to be taken by tractor and trailer to the top of Graig Hill. Nine counties in England and Wales can be seen from the 1400 foot summit and host Nigel Turner's 1100 Welsh Mules and Aberdeen Angus suckler cows were an inspiration.

It was a great day too for the son of the farm, 11 year old Oliver Turner, who won the Open Stock Judging Competition. He won a Galvanised Lamb Weigher, presented by David Ritchie Implements.


BLUE TONGUE

But there were also some sobering issues. Sheep producers were urged to 'wise up' on Blue Tongue at NSA Welsh Sheep, by chief veterinary officer for Wales, Dr Christianne Glossop. She said it was 'not if but when' the viral disease would arrive in the UK.

And she warned that the threat lies with the economic implications of the disease. It tended to be individual animals that suffered and they didn't necessarily die. The problem would arise from the controls on exports and movement controls within extensive protection zones.

"Let us be prepared for this disease, let us protect ourselves for when it comes", she urged. "It's not if but when.

"It's a viral disease spread via the bite of an infected midge. It''s been regarded as a disease mainly found in the warmer climates around the Mediterranean, but it has spread north and is across the Channel. The Channel is no barrier, because a midge can be blown 200 kilometres".

She explained that a midge would first have to cross the Channel. Then it would have to bite a sheep. The sheep would then be a source and it's once another midge bites it and it gets into the midge population here that it becomes endemic.

Dr Glossop advised producers to look out for signs of unusual illness in their sheep and also to check the WAG website and talk to their vet. It was a notifiable disease of ruminants and could affect cattle, sheep and goats.


COMMUNICATION

NSA Chief Executive, Peter Morris, called for improved communication between New Zealand and UK sheep producers. The two countries produced 80 to 90 per cent of the lamb sold in the UK and shouldn't allow themselves to be played off one against the other. New Zealand farmers faced many of the same pressures.

"No-one can argue but that the price in the last few days has been appalling", he added. "Store lamb finishers as well as producers of early lamb have had and continue to have a tough time.

"Lots of money has been lost and many producers are questioning why they continue to produce lamb".

NSA Cymru chairman Anthony Mears agreed that UK farmers needed to work more closely with New Zealand farmers, but he did expect market forces to correct prices within the next few weeks. There had been a lot of hoggets on the market.

He added that while lamb producers obviously wanted more for their product, the current prices had to be kept in perspective. Twelve months ago prices had been buoyant but the weather had been horrific. He was hoping lamb prices would strengthen.

And he warned that farmers will have to learn to help themselves when it comes to climate change. He said the industry wasn’t getting a proper lead from the Government and would have to find its own solutions to the challenges ahead. He predicted a return to a more mixed, traditional, system of farming.

He said the Open Day at Graig Farm would inspire producers and give them practical ideas on ways of reducing their own carbon footprint. The techniques employed by Nigel Turner and his family would also save money.

“We’re going to have to learn to avoid the pain of high cereal prices and ensure we remain viable as the supply of animal feed stuffs reduces”, he added.

“There will be the by products from bio diesel but the bottom line is that the supply of animal feed is going to be more difficult and more expensive. Last year was the first in twenty years that food prices to the consumer went up and they went up by two and a half per cent which in turn causes inflation.

“Farmers are going to have to cut costs, to be pragmatic, and adapt to a fast changing world. People are starting to go back to basics. They’re returning to the old mixed farming system. You can grow roots at 1,000 feet. Nigel has proved it here at 1400.

“It’s not impossible, you just have to adjust the system in order to survive”.

The competitions were also fiercely fought, as well as the Open Stock Judging, there was the Inter College and YFC Competition. Gelli Aur College fielded the two top teams in competition, which was sponsored by Williams & Watkins. A team from Holme Lacy College, Hereford, was third.

Eighteen sheepdogs were sold, with the two thousand guinea top price going to Allan Scadden of Garth Farm, Pant, Merthyr Tydfil. The dog went to an unnamed buyer in the Isle of Man. A total of 18 dogs sold for an average £800.

link Family Hosts Welsh Sheep 2007 with Pride
link Chief Vet at Welsh Sheep 2007
link Cattle Industry urged to be vigilant in keeping Bluetongue out

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NSA
National Sheep Association