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Welsh Government launches refreshed TB eradication scheme

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A refreshed TB Eradication Programme will build on the positive progress already made in Wales which has seen a 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 according to Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

Her statement comes as she launched a 12-week consultation on proposed enhancements to the programme.

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The TB Eradication Programme sets out the Welsh Government’s long term vision for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. The programme is based on the four key principles of infectious disease control: Keep it Out, Find it Fast, Stop it Spreading and Stamp it Out.

A regionalised approach to TB eradication was launched in 2017 creating Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas and policies have continued to be refined, reacting dynamically to the changing disease picture, whilst responding to the particular challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consultation launched today includes proposals on:

  • The TB testing programme in Wales to help further reduce the risk of the spread of TB such as testing protocols specifically, at this stage, in relation to the Pre-Movement Test.
  • Informed Purchasing and its aim to encourage keepers to provide TB information about cattle they wish to sell and for keepers to make wise purchasing decisions.
  • Payments for cattle slaughtered as a result of TB, to ensure the system is fair and proportionate, and reflects the financial resources available.

The Minister has also announced badger trap and test work in persistent herd breakdowns will be phased out from this year as the limited sample size and short follow-up period provide limited meaningful results to gauge the impact of interventions on cattle TB.

Work will be completed on existing farms but new ones will not be recruited into the process. Funding saved from phasing out of this work will see a further £100,000 made available initially for expanding badger vaccination across Wales.

In addition, a review will take place on options to supplement veterinary capacity for TB testing through greater use of appropriately trained and supervised paraprofessional staff.

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A new Task and Finish Group will consider the best ways of communicating with cattle keepers, to help them to protect their herds, and also throughout a TB breakdown. They will consider the potential role for TB Champions in Wales and farming and veterinary organisations have been approached for nominations for membership of this Group.

It is also the intention to continue the All Wales Badger Found Dead Survey to increase knowledge on the disease in badgers.

Speaking in the Senedd, Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “Bovine TB has a devastating impact on the farming industry and we must do all we can to protect our cattle herds from this disease.

“We have seen good progress since our programme was first established, with long term decreases in incidence and prevalence. The 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 shows our programme is making a real difference to farming families and businesses.

“A key aim of our Programme is the rapid, accurate, early identification of infection and we strive to improve TB diagnostics, embracing new research and being open to new validated tests.

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“Collaboration and partnership working, taking ownership and recognising we all have a role to play are key to the success of our Programme.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment and determination to rid Wales of a disease which has far reaching repercussions throughout the Welsh farming industry.

“Year on year we have made enhancements to our programme and introduced many fundamental policies which changed the TB landscape across Wales and laid foundations for the future.

“We continue to support the development of a deployable cattle TB vaccine with a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals to be in place by 2025.

“Cattle vaccination has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease and we will be engaging with the TB Centre of Excellence to plan its most appropriate deployment in Wales.”

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The Sêr Cymru Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis for Wales was established at Aberystwyth University in 2018 bringing together international expertise with the aim of providing underpinning scientific evidence to support eradication of the cattle disease.

Professor Glyn Hewinson, Head of the Centre at Aberystwyth University, said: “We met with the Minister over the summer and have provided advice over the past months. I am pleased to see some of our recommendations are being incorporated into future development of the programme. The Centre here at Aberystwyth University will continue to provide a strong scientific base for Wales and engage with all stakeholders as we all strive to find new and better ways of combatting this devastating disease.”

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society launches 2022 Student Bursary Award

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Would you like some extra financial support to assist with your chosen college or career path? Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Student Bursary Award is now open for applications.

The £1,000 bursary is open to all qualifying students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects clearly allied to agriculture. 

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The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

The last winner of the award was 21-year-old Gracie Morris, of St. Davids. A former pupil of Ysgol Croesgoch and Ysgol Dewi Sant, Gracie was in her fourth and final year at Harper Adams University studying BSc agriculture with crop management at the time of winning the award.

Gracie said, “It was an honour and a privilege to have been awarded the Pembrokeshire County Show student bursary award in 2019. The bursary enabled me to undertake research towards my final year dissertation on biofumigation to control Rhizoctonia solani in potatoes.”

“The bursary allowed me to be financially secure during my last year of studies. Most of my spare time was spent researching for my dissertation so having a part-time job alongside university was not not possible for me.”

Gracie recommends qualifying students apply for the award.  She said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

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Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicants’ family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

Rob James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “A panel of independent judges, chaired by a representative of the society, will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”

To enter, students must submit a dissertation of 1,000 words entitled ‘How the bursary will assist my career progression.’

Further details and the entry form can be found on the website: www.pembsshow.org or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is Friday, 1 July 2022.

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Tractor queues could lead to penalty points

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A warning for farmers this Easter Bank holiday weekend as police will be on the look-out for long queues disrupting the holiday traffic.

Leading farm vehicle insurance firmQuotezone.co.uk, which compares insurance quotes for farmers, says police forces will be especially aware of the Highway Code’s Rule 169 this weekend, as record crowds could be headed for their country road trip.

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Rule 169 says road users must not create or hold up a long queue of traffic; the rule pays special attention to those driving a large or slow-moving vehicle – potentially making tractor drivers high on the list to gain police attention.

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, says holding up more than six cars could risk 3-9 points on a driving licence, and a fine of up to £5,000.

He comments: “Traffic jams could be more numerous and longer as holidaymakers avoid foreign trips due to the chaos and cancellation at airports and ports – with the addition of mass rail engineering works ruling out alternative transport closer to home.”

If tractor drivers find they are creating queues, the Highway Code and police forces advise that they pull over, where safe, and allow traffic to overtake, as frustration can lead to dangerous manoeuvres to try and bypass farm vehicles.

The police will also be looking at motorists with caravans, trailers and horse boxes who will need to be conscious of how their driving is affecting other road users. Sensible measures such as checking mirrors, and showing reasonable consideration for other road users should avoid prosecutions.

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Greg Wilson continues: “Farmers are incredibly busy and it’s not always possible to pull over but it’s really important to be as safe as possible on the roads and also safeguard finances. 

“Penalty points could see insurance premiums increase by as much as 25% for 6 points – given tractor insurance can be rather expensive, it isn’t worth the financial risk or potentially losing a driving licence if the new penalties push total points to more than 12.”  

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Farming union hits out over Welsh and UK Government’s lack of engagement on Ukraine supply chain crisis

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has, for a second time, written to the Welsh Government urging them to instigate actions within their control to alleviate some of the pressures of the Ukraine war on Welsh farmers and consumers.

In response to the initial letter sent to the Welsh Government on 4th March 2022, in which the Union requested a roundtable meeting with them and other stakeholders to discuss such issues and possible actions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd stated that the Welsh Government did not believe such a meeting was appropriate.

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FUW President, Glyn Roberts
(Image: FUW)

In his letter of reply, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We are acutely concerned at the failure of both the Welsh and UK Governments to engage with the supply chain early on in order to explore immediate actions that will help mitigate problems that are having an impact now, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year and at least into 2023.

“Such impacts are affecting and will continue to affect not only farmers, but also consumers, and this is therefore an issue not only for the food and farming industry but also for the Welsh and UK population as a whole.”

Mr Roberts also highlighted the need for the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group on which the Welsh Government sits to take a more proactive approach and share information in a more timely manner, stating:

“It is worth noting that the last set of minutes published on the UK Government website relates to a meeting held on 8th February 2022, many weeks before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

“I know you will be aware of the impacts being reported across the supply chain, whether in terms of cooking oil, fuel, feed or fertiliser, and predicted shortages, for example of eggs, and we fully appreciate that with regard to many of these there is little if anything that the Welsh Government can do,” wrote Mr Roberts.

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“However, there certainly are actions that can be instigated by the Welsh Government to alleviate some pressures for Welsh farmers which will benefit consumers over the coming months and years, and while these may be limited we believe it is incumbent upon the Welsh Government to act now in order to do what it can to assist farmers, food producers and consumers,” he added.

(Lead image: FUW)

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