A timely lesson for the anti-farming lobby

There’s plenty going on in the industry at the moment, but as you are all (hopefully) coming along to our regional meetings… I won’t steal any thunder, and just give you a flavour of what I’ve been getting up to.

With help from members and the British Pig Association and Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), we met Defra Minister George Eustice in an attempt to find solutions to the current bovine TB stalemate.

With the TB policy team in attendance (thankfully minus one particularly shouty ex-meat inspector), Mr Eustice was determined to see progress and instructed his team to work with us to develop exit strategies for those under restriction and asked for a more flexible approach when restricting units under suspicion.

For their part, the TB policy team were unrepentant and not especially willing, so I suspect we will still have a battle on our hands, but at least we have the Minister’s attention so can prevail on him to intervene if we see no satisfactory progress.

Despite calls for antibiotic use to be treated as a ‘One Health’ issue (we are all in it together, so forget the blame game), a group of eminent healthcare professionals, egged on by our Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) chums, wrote to the Telegraph bemoaning the terrible overuse of antibiotics in agriculture.

RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) responded by inviting them to a farm to see how it works in practice. We took them to a large commercial high hygiene unit and while this would be exactly the type of set-up that the ASOA would seek to portray as high antibiotic users (indoor fully slatted weaners and finishers), it was absolutely spotless, very impressively run and a huge credit to the staff. They also use very low levels of antibiotics – epic fail for the anti-farming lobby.

The medics were impressed, although, sadly, most of the chat in the sidelines related to farrowing crates, lack of straw and ‘will my hair smell afterwards?’ There were enough sensible people to address any concerns and hopefully they left feeling less worried about agriculture than when they arrived.

Possibly prompted by the recent Trump/N.Korea spat, Defra have invited me to a meeting to discuss how we should deal with animals after a nuclear incident. My first thought was ‘if we have a nuclear war will anyone really give a toss about animals?’ Minor incidents are possible, however, so with that in mind, and the fact their old advice still harps on about sows in stalls or tethers, I thought I’d better lend a hand. Could be interesting?

Finally, nominations are being accepted for the 2018 NPA elections! This really is a crucial time for the NPA and the pig industry, so if you feel strongly about your future, it really is time to get involved and make yourself heard. I’m happy to chat to anyone who is on the fence about getting involved – we need you, both producers and allied industry, so get on and get nominated!

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.