Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

TB casting a long shadow over British beef sector

TB is a rising problem on Welsh and English farms
TB is a rising problem on Welsh and English farms
John Joyce

John Joyce

With the main summer jobs completed l decided last week to head over to Wales to the Royal Welsh Show and visit a few farming friends in the area as well.

The show is similar to the likes of Tullamore Show, except on a larger scale. It is mainly livestock, with a larger amount of animals from the different sectors including cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and all types of horses. There was also a lot of machinery on display, including other sectors like forestry, horticulture and countryside sports.

One thing that was hard to miss was the pride everybody took in showing their stock and telling you about the breeds and the different blood lines they have tried in their breeding endeavours.

I was told the role of the show is to showcase the cream of Welsh livestock and high quality food to cater to the broad spectrum of not just rural dwellers, but townies too.

It is a four-day event with attendance figures of 240,000 people over the few days. It is held in the same purpose-built venue every year with a good road network for walking through the site. I think it is well worth a visit for anybody interested in livestock, especially with all cattle breeds across both dairy and beef on display.

After the show I visited a few farms in England and of course the main talking points were the Brexit vote and the rising problem of TB on Welsh and English farms.

I was surprised to hear so many farmers tell me that they voted to leave the EU. On asking why they told me they were tired of regulations and never-ending rules on how they should farm. Some looked at the vote as a massive opportunity to reshape agricultural, trade and environmental policies in the UK. Either way I had good fun debating it with them.

But with some of the cattle farmers, the biggest problem now is TB. It continues to cast a dark cloud over the UK industry with latest figures showing a 27pc increase in the number of TB reactors. It seems their department has not got a handle on the problem as numbers of badgers continue to rise, with some farmers only testing every four years in certain areas unless there is a problem.

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Back to the home farm, grass has become very hard to control in the last few weeks, with some of it getting too strong ahead of stock. We had sufficient silage made for next year's winter so I decided not to take any second cut and this has added to the supply of grass for the stock. Last week we also baled some good quality winter barley straw. It will be suitable for both feeding and bedding and I will keep a few extra bales for this coming winter as there were only two bales left to spare from last winter.

Two weeks ago the Beef Data and Genomics tags arrived in the post. The tissue samples have to be returned within 28 days of receiving the tags, so I must make it top priority to get that job done this week. Most of the tags are for the calves so I intend to dose them for lung worms while they are in. I requested two sets of tags for heifers that were purchased for breeding that had no star ratings because no sire was registered to them. With very few repeats in the cows I am happy with the end of the breeding season.

Weaning the lambs is the main job with the sheep at the moment. Any lamb that was near to selling went to the factory before weaning. The rest were dosed and put into good quality after-grass.

The lambs had a few cases of blow fly over the last number of days so I will have to reapply pour-on to them in the next few days. With all the rain in late June and early July the first pour-on only lasted four to five weeks. With lamb prices steady I will continue to draft them weekly.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

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