Monthly Archives: February 2013

Single Payment Supervisor off and running

Today Single Payment Supervisor Online went live. Already we have had many customers downloading forms and several claim submissions.

Remember if you’ve used the online system before RPA will no longer send you a paper copy of your form, although you can request one by contacting them. For those who haven’t used the online system before (I recommend Single Payment Supervisor for this) your paper forms should follow soon and also include your PIN letters needed to use the online service.

Unfortunately for agents who don’t have a PIN number for this service already you cannot request a new PIN until 7th March when RPA switch the required system back on.

Badger cull – How effective will it be in stopping bovine TB?

Research carried out by Durham University has claimed that the impact badgers have on spreading TB to cattle is highly overstated. Professor Peter Atkins of Durham University suggests that carefully arranged culling in South West England and South Wales may have a part to play in the reduction of bovine TB but elsewhere may not be justified or particularly effective.

This is contrary to the governments position, who feel their strategy for tackling badger numbers to is the right thing to do to reduce instances of bovine TB. Enivroment Secretary Owen Paterson has recently stated “Having looked at all the evidence over many years, I am utterly convinced that badger control is the right thing to do, and indeed the higher than expected badger numbers only serve to underline the need for urgent action”.

The evidence Paterson talks about definitely exists, instances of bovine TB are higher in areas with badgers and it is medical fact that badgers do suffer from and carry the the same strain of mycobacteria which causes bovine TB. Atkins however suggests that when you look deeper things are more complex than they appear. He claims the Randomised Badger Culling Trial demonstrated the complexity of the issues and that badger culling was unlikely to be effective for controlling bovine TB. Atkins states culling attempts could even “exacerbate the problem” by driving badgers to different areas.

The one thing everyone agrees about is that bovine TB needs to be stopped with 34,897 cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts in 2012. It seems there is a growing opinion that badger culling will not be as effective as first thought and that alternative measures need to be reassessed. Suggests include: vaccinating against bovine TB in cattle is forbidden by EU legislation but vaccinating badgers has shown some promising results; further research into an acceptable cattle vaccine and greater lobbying in Europe to make this a priority issue; improved testing; and tighter movement controls.

BCMS electronic cattle movement reporting up again

RPA have reported the proportion of cattle movements reported electronically to BCMS has hit record highs for two consecutive months. December saw a record 95% of movements reported electronically either through CTS Online, CTS Web Services or the CTS Self-Service Line. This represented an increase of 17% over reporting in December 2010. However the record high didn’t last long as in January 95.49% of cattle movements were reported electronically.

With such a small proportion of cattle movements being reported using paper forms (Only 10% of births too) it does raise the question might it worth stopping the paper form method and force 100% electronic reporting by farmers?

There are now several different methods of electronic reporting through the Internet, telephone or farm software. This gives the farmer a choice of services to meet their needs with the minimum requirement being a telephone. In addition farm software packages can reduce the duplication of record keeping and reporting. Electronic record keeping would help to reduce RPA costs, reduce farmers costs and improve the reliability of reporting (we won’t get into the Royal Mail’s reliability).

There does appear to be a strong case for compulsary electronic reporting, however not everyone has confidence in the technology and it is important that all farmers have confidence in how the system works. Also it seems doubtful in the current financial climate that any reduction in operating costs, once the need to process the paper forms is gone, will result in any benefit to the farming community.

While we are strong advocates of electronic reporting we would suggest that even higher proportions of farmers need to voluntarily use electronic methods before it should be made compulsory.

The horse meat scandal – every cloud has a silver lining!

The horse meat scandal has been trotting (sorry!) on for a week now with the source appearing to be Romania. Some people are speculating this is the fallout of a law in Romania banning horses from roads. In the UK this has resulted in the reputation of companies such as Tesco and Findus taking a hit and reduced confidence in processed beef products.

So where is the silver lining? With consumer confidence in processed beef low they are looking to get there meat from closer to the source. This means local butchers and farm shops with some farm shops reporting an upsurge in beef sales of up to 30%. It is nice to see small businesses taking some of their custom back from the large supermarkets (let’s hope it continues).


Single Payment Supervisor faster than SPS Online?

Single Payment SupervisorIn 2012 we analysed sixteen Single Payment Scheme claims (we know it isn’t exactly a major study but we did at least vary the complexity of the claims) comparing how long they took to complete on paper compared to using Single Payment Supervisor and found it was 48.2% faster using our software.

We had hoped to compare Single Payment Supervisor to SPS Online but time wasn’t on our side, however we managed three comparisons. Please note this is definitely too small a sample group to draw solid conclusions! The tests involved completing the claims but not actually submitting them.

On average Single Payment Supervisor was 28.6% faster than SPS Online. This was due to the significantly better responsiveness of Single Payment Supervisor. With SPS Online a lot of time was spent refreshing web pages (Note we used a high speed 20Mb Internet connection).

Once again we must stress that this is too small a sample group from which to draw firm conclusions. That being said the evidence here does support the feedback we have received from customers that our software if faster (and easier) then SPS Online.

Subclinical ketosis – A growing problem?

I was reading this article about subclinical or hidden ketosis and was surprised to find it suggest an average 30% rate of dairy cows in the UK testing positive with hidden ketosis. The first thing that struck me was the company which commissioned the audit also happens to be selling a product to test for hidden ketosis. Hmm!

Firstly were the cattle tested a fair representation of UK cattle? The audit tested 763 cows of the 2 million dairy cows in the UK from 15 different herds. While I would suggest a wider ranging audit would lend more weight to the results they have tested a reasonable number of cows.

Experts have proposed the prevalence of hidden ketosis within a herd can be influenced by season. The audit was conducted between July 2011 and January 2012 meaning the entire spring season was omitted. Whether this makes a difference is hard to judge until a consensus is reached by experts on the seasonal effects.

Finally I investigated the BHBA testing threshold for testing positive. In the Elanco audit they used a threshold of 1000-1400 µmol/litre. The lower end of this threshold is quite a low compared that proposed by other sources which suggest 1200 µmol/litre[1], 1400 µmol/litre[2], 1200 µmol/litre[3], 1400 µmol/litre[4]. This would in theory produce results with increased positive tests.

One thing however that appears to be undoubted is that hidden ketosis is a real problem! Correctly monitoring your dairy herd is important from both a welfare and financial perspective.

Single Payment Scheme Application Period

Single Payment Supervisor

It’s approaching that time of year again (so soon!) where farmers must make they Single Payment Scheme subsidy claim. Land agents are run off their feet and farmers are panicking about making a correct submission. We now understand from RPA that the application period will open on the 26th February (assuming testing doesn’t highlight any issues).

Every year we have our keen Single Payment Supervisor users desperately wanting to know how soon before they can download and submit their SP5 forms. We thought we could investigate how long the submission period has been over the last five years.

2013: 26th February – 15th May (79 days)
2012: 28th February – 15th May (78 days)
2011: 1st March – 16th May (77 days)
2010: 15th March – 17th May (64 days)
2009: 4th March – 15th May (73 days)

Well the results are in and it’s good news. Each year, 2010 excepted, the period in which to make your Single Payment Scheme submission is increasing with six more days available this year than in 2009, an increase of 8%. For the individual farmer this probably doesn’t make too much difference in submitting their one or two applications, however for a land agent filling in dozens if not hundreds of these important claims those extra days are crucial. In conclusion we congratulate RPA on moving in the right direction!