Crisis meeting for sheep farmers

Falling lamb prices and the spread of Schmallenberg disease is to be discussed at a farmer meeting in Herefordshire.

Sheep farmers from across the county and beyond will be at Hereford Livestock Market on 4 February to discuss the Schmallenberg virus and other industry issues.

The meeting comes after the NFU said every effort was needed to ensure a Schmallenberg vaccine was available as soon as possible to help combat the virus.

Many individual farms with early-lambing flocks have experienced higher than normal losses due to the disease this season.

The midge-borne virus, which also affects cattle, has spread across England and Wales to the Scottish border region and has now been confirmed on more than 1,000 UK farms.

While the disease is still recognised by DEFRA and the European Union as low impact, the cost for individual businesses on a more local scale can run into thousands of pounds.

At the same time, lamb prices have hit their lowest level for three years, with producers losing in the region of £29 an animal.

Livestock producers are also facing rising production costs due to the extreme weather throughout 2012 and at the start of this year.

Farmers looking for advice about the disease, lambing and information on sector prices and trading will hear from the NFU and other industry experts in the market’s livestock centre.

Herefordshire NFU county adviser Clare Greener said the meeting had been convened specifically for sheep farmers following growing concern from members.

“I hope the event will prove to be practical as well as providing useful information on the current state of play,” she said.

The event will be chaired by Whitbourne farmer Julia Evans, who is the NFU Council representative for Herefordshire.

Guest speakers will include Dominic Alexander, a veterinary surgeon at Belmont Veterinary Centre; Clive Brown, Eblex senior regional manager; and Richard Hyde, an auctioneer at Hereford Market.

NFU livestock adviser Joseph Keating and NFU animal health and welfare adviser Catherine McLaughlin are also expected to attend.

So too is farmer Tim Jones, who chairs the union’s sheep group and regional livestock board.

During the Hereford meeting the expert panel, who are also specialists in different areas, will answer questions from the floor.

The meeting will start with a meal at 6pm before the main business at 6.30pm.

NFU members are asked to book a place in advance if they want to attend. For further details please contact the NFU regional office on 01952 400500.

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