9 April 1999

Sheep worries? Just dial up the ADAS help-line

SHEEP producers worried about ewe condition or seeking advice on ration formulation can obtain free phone advice from ADAS.

The advice line, funded by MAFF and the Welsh Office, will run until late May, offering free help from specialist sheep consultants, says ADASs Brian Pocknee.

"This year many ewes are in poorer condition than usual due to the very wet season. Many fields have been waterlogged for much of the year, and ewes have struggled to eat enough wet grass to meet their needs.

"Adequate ewe nutrition in late pregnancy is vital in ensuring lambs are viable and survive. All ewes should be condition scored; where they are too thin, feed more generous levels of a good quality compound feed."

He warns against buying cheap concentrates as these are likely to be poor quality, leading to higher feed requirements to achieve the same result. "If in doubt, have the sample analysed by a reputable laboratory."

The help-line can be contacted on (0191-286 0303), an ADAS consultant will return the call. Free information leaflets on feeding ewes in late pregnancy, condition scoring and improving lamb survival can also be ordered through the help-line. &#42

Changes may offer GB EBL-free status

AMENDMENTS to EU legislation allows Great Britain to apply to be recognised as free from enzootic bovine leukosis (EBL), saving on costly testing fees for many cattle producers.

According to a report in the Vet Record (Mar 27, 1999) the last case of EBL in Great Britain was in December 1996.

The national EBL testing programme, involving periodic blood tests, milk tests and investigation of tumours will continue in the meantime. EBL testing costs about £90 for a typical beef herd, plus the cost of blood sampling. But if EBL free status is awarded this will no longer be necessary.

Then, MAFF says, it will no longer require its Cattle Health Scheme, because all herds will be regarded as EBL-free. The exception is where EBL-free status is suspended because disease is suspected in a herd. &#42

Stock health plan needed to meet new SQBLA rules

By FW Livestock reporters

SHEEP and beef producers must now produce a stock health plan for the year ahead under new requirements of the Scottish beef and sheep farm assurance scheme.

It may also soon be introduced in England and Wales.

The announcement about the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association scheme was made by its chief executive, Brian Simpson, at an SAC cattle health conference in Perth last week. "It may be regarded as extra paperwork but demonstrates to customers that our members have a professional and forward-looking approach to animal health," he said.

"The aim is to give assurances from birth to slaughter and right through the chain to the retail counter. Animal health is an important component of farm assurance and we are progressively incorporating health matters into our scheme."

Consumers did not want to be reminded that their meat came from an animal, but the media had a huge interest and needs robust answers on health matters, he added.

Perthshire farmer Ian Duncan Millar, who chairs the SQBLA farm assurance technical committee, said members were being sent a simple pro forma to detail standard treatments planned for a complete season. "When a farmer has his annual farm assurance audit, we will check that the health plan and medicines book match up. The forward plan is quite simple, we are not asking for great detail, just demonstrating that the farmer is planning ahead. For some it may prove a help to have things written down," said Mr Duncan Miller.

Scottish NFU president, Jim Walker, who has 470 suckler cows and nearly 2000 ewes in Dumfriesshire, said the new requirement would not pose an unreasonable burden.

"Most of us have a plan in our heads and it is easy to prepare a plan from the previous years medicines record. Once it is in place, all that is required is to update it each year. If it adds to customer reassurance on food safety then it must be a good thing," he said.

Commenting on the proposals, Borders beef and sheep producer Malcolm Stewart disagrees. "It is just another burden for producers, brought about by people who do not understand the business and when returns are at an all-time low."

Aberdeenshire beef producer Donald Moir also believes it is unnecessary. "I do not see how it will benefit consumers or SQBLA."

But south of the border, FABBL chairman Ian Frood says it makes sense to have a health plan. "Most health plans are in producers heads. Under new FABBL standards they should have one. Currently this does not have to be written down, although we will be moving in that direction.

"We want to encourage producers to record health plans but are wary of adding extra paperwork until our new standards have bedded in."

FAWL spokesman Moss Jones agrees. "The SQBLA pro forma is straightforward and would help producers plan ahead. We have been looking at similar health plans with FABBL and ABM."

Both FAWL and FABBL have no immediate intention to introduce compulsory health plans into their schemes. &#42

&#8226 SQBLA requirement.

&#8226 Pro forma to fill in.

&#8226 Mixed producer reaction.

Apply for dip disposal

DESPITE the deadline for registering a holding for sheep dip disposal passing last week, producers are still being urged to apply.

Speaking to farmers weekly an Environment Agency spokesman said: "We want to encourage applications from producers. The message is to send them in as soon as possible. We understand there may have been some difficulties with filling in forms because this is a new regulation."

Although this appears to be a softer stance from the EA, it warns that producers disposing sheep dip who have not registered an application are liable to prosecution. &#42

A trying time for young calves… 16 spring born replacement heifers at Stephen Brandons New Buildings Farm, Stafford, are testing out a new group rearing system. Mr Brandons move to spring calving, with 200 to calve next spring, means that calf rearing in individual pens is no longer an option. Instead 16 teats have been fixed to a large barrel to simplify twice-daily milk feeding and save labour.

Cattle scheme for Highlands

A NEW cattle health scheme for the Scottish Highlands will include quality assurance, marketing and traceability as well as the eradication of IBR, BVD, leptospirosis and Johnes disease.

The broader approach is being funded by a £370,000 EU and government grant. Called Hi-Health, it aims to enrol 2500 producers covering 60% of production, within five years.

The first stage for members will include a veterinary health plan, membership of a quality assurance scheme and entry to a database. The next step will be to introduce disease testing, eradication and accreditation. That part of the scheme will be serviced by SAC. The final thrust of the work will be to promote the high health status of herds to achieve market premiums.

The public funding had been granted while the Highlands and Islands had EU Objective 1 status. But Bill McKelvey, head of the SAC veterinary science division, said he hoped other areas of Scotland could access EU funding and follow the Hi-Health lead.

Details of the scheme were announced at the SAC conference on cattle health held in Perth last week. &#42