Sunday 26 February 2012

In The News

There has been much for the farming papers to report about recently. A new record price for a limousin bull, sold at Carlisle Auction Mart a week past Saturday for £120,000 guineas. Guineas are no longer legal tender in the UK but there is still a tradition of selling pedigree animals at auction for guineas, a guinea equates to £1.05, therefore the said animal actually realised a price of £126,000 – very nice too! See for yourselves in the following link

The Scottish farming press have also reported this week that German farmers may well be on the way to doing all British sheep farmers a great favour. It would appear that the Germans are prepared to file a law suit with regard to EID. That being the electronic tagging which all sheep farmers now have to comply with, an issue that many are opposed to, but no one seems prepared to fight against. Well, it would appear that our counterparts in Germany are preparing to put up a fight, on the terms of animal welfare and overall financial costs, and rightly so.

There will be many farmers in this country who will follow the proceedings with interest, farmers who are nervous to speak out themselves about the ludicrousy and cruelty of the regulations which are being enforced upon them. Good luck to our neighbours over the water.

It is not just the farming press who are reporting on sheep issues, the national press are also finding livestock issues are hitting the headlines. Long covered by the farming papers since the virus first came to notice last back end, our national press have now picked up on the story. A worrying one for sheep farmers.

A new virus has hit our shores, carrying the name of Schmallenberg virus it is a relatively unknown entity which is causing stillbirths and deformities in new born lambs away down south. Todays press reports, some of which could be classed as scaremongering, are claiming that up to 70 cases have been confirmed in the south of the country.

It doesn’t seem long since our shores were faced with the doom of the Bluetongue virus, another expense for the livestock vector as animals found themselves being immunised against the virus. Similar to todays virus this one also started in the South of our country and was also reportedly transmitted by midges or mosquitoes. It is hoped Bluetongue may be history on our island but has it just given way to allow another virus in?

It can be easy for us in the North of the country to feel far removed from viruses which are causing havoc further South, but it must be soul destroying for those facing these challenges, and who’s to say we won’t be facing them in a month or two? After all, some countries in Europe are already worse hit than us.

By the press reports in all of today’s Sunday newspapers it would seem that mature animals don’t seem to show many symptoms relating to this virus, the symptoms are showing up when their offspring are being born, as yet our offspring aren’t being born, we will have a while to wait to find out whether the midges made it this far north. If lambs aren’t being still born they are being born with deformities such as fused limbs or bent necks, deformities which they will be unable to live with and so are finding themselves being put down (put to sleep – killed).

Deformed lambs are not unheard of, there may be cause for an odd one at lambing time. Still births aren’t unheard of either, again, an odd one may occur. However, by the reports I have read today some of the worst affected farms are seemingly losing up to 20% of their newborn lambs – that is an enormous loss and a huge financial loss at that. A heartbreaking position to be in for those involved. One farmer quoted said he had put down more lambs this lambing time than he has in his farming lifetime – not a good place to be.

Time will tell whether this virus fizzles out or not, how far through our country it has spread and whether there will be a vaccination introduced to treat against it (unfortunately it is reported that it may take at least eighteen months to produce a vaccine). To date it would seem it only affects sheep and cattle (and possibly goats).

As with many of these viruses (including foot and mouth) it is of no threat to the human race, other than those farmers whose stock are burdened with it, as they have the stress and worry to contend with, both physical and financial. Farmers are resilient souls but for some they and their businesses can only take so many knocks in life, lets hope they can get through this like they've got through everything else in the past.