This Week in Farming: Welsh demos, disease and better markets

It’s been another manic week in British farming, with news and views aplenty, encapsulated here in our regular This Week in Farming feature.

Farm protests

Talking of “manic”, it was the words of a Manic Street Preachers song that really set the tone at the mass rally organised by Welsh farmers at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday (28 February).

“If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” was the refrain as more than 3,000 farmers assembled on the doorstep of the Welsh government to protest about the planned Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) – the government’s approach to bovine TB – and the introduction of an “all- Wales” nitrate vulnerable zone.

Our reporters Philip Case and Matilda Bovingdon were on hand to capture the emotion of the day and produce a video of the occasion.

The Welsh demos also provided material for our Leader column, with FW editor Andrew Meredith suggesting a policy reset may be coming, with a new Welsh First Minister taking office later this month.

Further protests are planned, with NFU Cymru organising a collection of 5,500 pairs of wellie boots to present to the Senedd on 7 March, when the current SFS consultation ends.

And it was not just Welsh farmers demonstrating this week, with EU farmers also taking to the streets again, particularly in Paris, Brussels and Cork. 

Up horn, up corn

There was slightly better news for farmers in the markets this week, with prices continuing to rise for some commodities and at least turning the corner for others.

The sheep trade remained buoyant, with lamb prices touching £7/kg in response to strong retail demand, tight supply, and firm buyer interest in the build-up to Ramadan.

Exports have also played a key role, with latest trade figures showing strong growth, especially in sales to France. 

Milk producers have seen an uptick too, with Arla now back over 40p/litre for a standard liquid litre as a result of stronger retail demand and a tighter world market.

Organic producers supplying Organic Herd (formerly Omsco), will be payed 50p/litre from 1 April as it seeks to expand its milk pool. 

Arable growers, who have seen the price of wheat slide on a weekly basis since mid-December, may draw some comfort from the fact feed wheat markets rose to £158/t in the middle of the week.

Livestock disease

As ever, livestock disease has featured in the news this week. Well-known vet Dick Sibley, recently removed from Defra’s Bovine TB Partnership, cast doubt on Defra’s TB eradication plan, saying eliminating the disease by 2038 was unrealistic.

There was better news in the form of a new study by Colin Birch, published in Nature journal, which concludes that badger culling has led to a 56% fall in bovine TB rates.

Meanwhile, vets are advising farmers to keep a very close eye on worm counts in sheep and stressing the importance of ewe body condition when targeting wormers at lambing time, given the wettest February on record.

Farmer inventions

The inventiveness of farmers has been celebrated this week, with more workshop wonders shared in our Farmers Weekly Farm Inventions Competition.

One particular work of genius came from Andrew Metson who upgraded his 24-year-old 5m Vaderstad Carrier to create a multiuse cultivator that can double up as a cover crop drill.

Keen to make the most of fallen trees on his hill farm in Powys, Martin Buck built his own “Slabmaster” track bandsaw to turn them into useful timber.

And, on a quest to find a cheap source of additional horsepower, Norfolk farmer Sam Hill has built a wheeled power pack to sit between a tractor and its implement.

There was also a host of cunning ideas for livestock farmers – from a gravity-fed weed wiper to a used barbed wire collector.


In more uplifting news, two Midlands farmers Rod Adlington and Guy Minshull completed their trans-Atlantic row last Sunday (25 February).

They have been raising money for cancer charity Get A-Head and Meningitis Now, in memory of Rod’s young son Barney who succumbed to the disease in 2005.

And we also came across Ivan and Rosemary Goff, aged 96 and 90, respectively, who are believed to be the oldest couple in England with ties to the Young Farmers’ Club. It’s a lovely read!

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