Beef and Lamb

UK farming unions livestock visit

Commodity watch by policy officer Kellie Rouse

Last week, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) beef and lamb and hill farming chairs and policy officer visited Edinburgh for the UK farming unions livestock visit. The four UK farming unions (NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union) livestock chairs and policy officers regularly meet online to discuss issues going on in the nations. Every year a different nation hosts and this year it was Scotland’s turn to host.

The visit commenced with a visit to a 1700-acre tenancy farm called Upper Nisbet Farm, farmed by Robert Neill. The farm has 1000 acres of arable and 350 suckler cows. The suckler cows are Freisan Limousin crossed cows and the farm runs Limousin bulls from its pedigree herd. The farm sells finished cattle to the marts with the visit attending the local mart at St Boswell’s to observe Robert’s cattle being sold. At the farm low and ultra-high frequency EID tags were demonstrated. EID tags are a very useful management tool on farms. The benefits of using EID in cattle include farmers being able to record individual cattle details on management systems. This results in less paperwork and more efficient and accurate data collection. EID tags for cattle are read by panels in pens, weighbridge etc. and handheld devices. Low frequency EID tags require the reader to be close to the EID tag whereas Ultra High frequency can read tags from a certain distance and therefore improve health and safety. Discussions included dual tags that have both low and ultra-high frequency EID.

During the visit the farming unions discussed topics including market prices, future agricultural policy, TB, animal welfare, farm assurance, levy increases, environment, carbon, cattle registration and movements databases, cattle and lamb grading and Bluetongue (BTV-3). NI future agricultural policy was discussed with the other nations very impressed with our Soil Nutrient Heath Scheme, carbon footprinting scheme and Sustainable Ruminant Genetics. In each region, there is a different agricultural policy, but all are moving towards environmental schemes that deliver outcomes and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The NFU explained how the Sustainable Farming Incentive has resulted in farmers changing their farming practices to suit the scheme. NFU were cautious that environment schemes should not result in reduced livestock farming.

On the second day of the visit, we went to the Moredun Research Institute which carries out animal diseases research. Currently, Moredun Research Institute is carrying out research on sheep scab, parasites, roundworms etc. Research carried out helps to improve livestock health and welfare through the prevention and control of infectious diseases.