3 July 1998

Vital message lost

FARM animal welfare and quality have become key issues.

If you want to sell milk, you have to demonstrate high standards of production and caring for the animals involved.

But this message seems to have been lost on most producers, as demonstrated by the failure of the NFU to adopt a farm assurance scheme and by the poor turnout for last weeks animal welfare workshop held at the RAC.

Only six producers were present, of which two of us were from outside of the area and one represented our host the RAC farm.

One has to wonder if the poor turnout reflects producers lack of interest in welfare research, or whether they do not need to be told what they already know. The MDC already disseminates research information and results to all levy payers via a series of leaflets.

The speakers were excellent and the discussion that followed was testimony to the quality of the delegates that decided to show. A number of useful points were raised by the speakers, and it is reassuring to know that those identifying and carrying out research have their wellies firmly on the ground.

In a time of ever-increasing commercialism, I cannot help feeling that farmers have to take a more positive lead in identifying the research work that they want and need. I know the MDC has helped fund the Grass 99 project for the BGS, but generally as a grass system farmer, there is little support or backup in terms of research. I and colleagues around the country seem to do as much "research" (well, experimentation anyway) as is done professionally elsewhere on behalf of grazers.

The fact that people ask my opinion on grassland matters is testimony to the lack of data available through usual channels. &#42

Producers must be more positive in identifying R&D needs, says Mr Fox.