Sheep farms concerned about plans for the Golden Eagle of Wales

Plans to reintroduce the golden eagle to Wales prompted farmers to record predator attacks on sheep at the NSA Cymru Wales AGM.

Brexit, the orientation of companies towards an uncertain future and a proactive approach to animal health were among the other topics discussed.

President Tim Ward said the annual regional members meeting at the Royal Welsh Showground had been lively and enthusiastic, despite the prevailing negativity.

He said: “It has been a very positive meeting and everyone is looking forward to the future, whatever it may bring and I think everything bodes well for the NSA that we get the support we give.”

The call for farmers to record predator attacks came from Lorraine Howells. She was concerned that golden eagles could remove young lambs from the hills, and that farmers would have to keep track of anything, including crows and crows, that would disturb the normal sheep population to monitor the impact.

She said: “We were ignoring the dog attacks, but now everyone is recording the dog attacks, we can see how big a problem it is. If there is a register and it is a raven attack you can stand it, if it’s a hundred then you can say the crows are causing a problem.

John Lloyd had suggested that even Snowdonia was not big enough for more than two or three pairs of golden eagles. He said 50 breeding units were needed to maintain the population for decades and that populations of protected predator species had increased dramatically in recent years.

Brexit, proactive businesses and a lively and interactive discussion on animal health with Mid Wales Vet and Farmers Weekly Advisor of the Year 2018, Oliver Hodgkinson, were among the other topics. NSA Next Generation Ambassador Bleddyn Davies described the benefits the program has brought her.

He said: “I worked on the farm full time but had less influence. I started the NSA Next Generation Ambassador Program, then I came home with some ideas and Dad started taking note.

“He listened to me and I integrated my ideas more. During this time, I have also become a partner within the company, so my voice is heard.

“The Next Generation program opened my eyes to what is possible with different systems. There is no golden answer or a perfect system.

“It opened my eyes to different systems and possibilities and how more technology can be used on the farm – to be more efficient.”

Hybu Cig Cymru Director of Industry Development and Relations John Richards has said Brexit will be the biggest factor affecting the market in the coming months. He said it was a difficult time, with many issues beyond the control of sheep farmers, and urged them to focus on making their farming systems profitable – using benchmarking and recording performance, among other measures.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker has called for a clear direction for the sheep industry, with potential trade disruptions from Brexit and attacks on the industry almost every week. He said there were times when he needed protection and there was certainly a need for a lot more explanation to the general public.

He added: “It is still an industry that is not understood by the general public. We have a communication job to do within the industry, and then the industry communicates as well.

David Ashford, Welsh Government, described the approach to climate change and its potential impact on Wales over the next two decades. Much wetter winters and much drier summers were expected and it was important to learn what that meant in terms of animals, pests and disease.

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