Sharper demand boosts live sheep trade

The live sheep trade is benefiting from increased competition from agents working for factories based in the Republic of Ireland.

Supplies of factory-fit lambs are extremely limited in availability south of the border, pushing Irish plants to increase prices to €6.80/kg and raise the carcase weight limit to 23kg. That has given buying agents an advantage over local plants when sourcing lambs at NI marts this week.

NI-based plants increased quotes by 5p to 535p/kg and are trying to cap price deals between 540p/kg and 545p/kg at the 22kg weight limit.

But with good-quality, meal-fed lambs returning £120 to £122, deals of 550p/kg were paid to farmers presenting bigger numbers for slaughter.

Reports indicate some plants were paying to a 22.5kg weight limit, but at prices closer to 535p/kg. In Britain, factory prices are in the region of 560p to 570p/kg.

Farmers still struggling with NIFAIS

A number of farmers have contacted the Irish Farmers Journal in recent weeks to point out they are still unable to access the new NI Food Animal Information System (NIFAIS), the replacement for APHIS.

One farmer said the situation has not been resolved despite repeated conversations with local DAERA staff.

“They have been as helpful as they can be, but I sense a lot of frustration with them too,” he said.

A spokesperson for DAERA said the Department has been engaging with farmers to ensure they have the appropriate authorisation to access herd information online.

“The support is being provided through local DAERA Direct offices as they arise and any farmers who are experiencing difficulties should contact their local office to assist in resolving such issues,” said the spokesperson.

Labour rules out inheritance tax on farmland

The Labour Party will not scrap agricultural property relief (APR) for inheritance tax if it wins the next general election, Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed has said.

In September, there was speculation that Labour was planning to drop APR as a way of raising tax revenues. The relief currently allows agricultural land and buildings to have 100% exemption from inheritance tax.

However, speaking at the Country and Land Business Association conference last week, Reed confirmed that Labour had “no intention of changing APR”.

Further cases of bluetongue found in Kent

Two new cases of bluetongue have been confirmed in Kent, bringing the total number of cases to seven since the first outbreak was detected in mid-November.

Both cases were found in cows on farm premises just outside the 10km temporary control zone.

This led DEFRA officials to extend the surveillance area to cover northern and eastern regions of the county.

The infected cattle on the premises have been removed and humanely culled.

To contain bluetongue, restrictions around the movement of livestock, semen and embryos remain in place, including a temporary ban on movements from Britain to NI.

Rathfriland Mart to open £1m extension

A new extension to Rathfriland Mart in Co Down will be officially opened on Friday, 15 December, with an annual Christmas show and sale of dropped calves.

Both sales rings in the premises will operate on the day, with proceedings commencing at 11am.

The £1m investment in the farmer-owned co-op will allow twice as many cattle to be sold during sales.

According to mart management, the new building was paid for by profit from mart sales, with no grants or overdraft required.

Prior to the opening sale, a Christmas carol service led by Reverend Kenny Hanna will be held in the new building on Friday, 8 December, at 7.30pm.

New milk test for stomach worms in cows

A new milk test that detects levels of stomach worms in cows is available from the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

The test assesses levels of antibodies raised against the brown stomach worm, Ostertagia ostertagi.

High worm burdens can lead to suppressed weight gains, reduced milk yields and diarrhoea, although infections can also be subclinical, with less obvious symptoms.

The new test uses bulk tank samples to assess infestation levels within herds and results are expressed in terms of milk yield reduction. Individual animal milk samples can also be tested if required.

The latest price list from AFBI shows the stomach worms test costs £14 per package.

Children’s farm safety calendar launched

Almost 2,300 drawings by school children were submitted for the Heath and Safety Executive for NI (HSENI) annual farm safety calendar.

The 12 winning pictures have been selected for the 2024 calendar and over 28,000 copies are to be distributed across NI over the coming weeks.

The calendar, which is themed “Avoid harm on the farm”, contains safety advice covering the four key dangers on farms, namely slurry, animals, falls and equipment.