7th MAY 2020 - Page 50

FEBRUARY 07 2019
Deadly hare virus hits
England for first time
hares, already
under threat
from agricultural
land use changes,
are dying as rabbit
haemorrhagic disease virus
type 2 (RHDV2) reaches the UK
for the first time.
Research led by the University of
East Anglia (UEA) identified RHDV2
in dead hares found in two locations –
Essex and Dorset.
Working with diagnostic laboratories
in England, Scotland and Germany,
UEA researchers investigated
following reports of sick and dead
hares from the public.
Lead researcher Diana
Bell of UEA’s School of
Biological Sciences
says RHDV2 normally
affects rabbits, but
the disease is
known to have
jumped to European brown hares in Italy,
Spain, France and Australia.
“This is the first time that RHDV2 has been
found in hares in the UK,” she says.
“RHDV2 is one of several pathogens we are
finding in dead hares and it is too early to
say which is the primary cause of the hare
die-off. We are continuing to investigate
other causes for the deaths.”
Brown hares have
experienced a decline of
more than 80 per cent
in the UK over the past
century due to changes in
agricultural practice. The
intensification of agriculture
has limited their supply of food and
But concerns about new diseases
were raised after landowners,
farmers and members of the
public began reporting sightings
THREAT: Rabbit haemorrhagic
disease threatens UK brown hares.
(Photo: UEA)
of obviously sick and dead hares last
The university urged the public to
photograph sick and dying hares and,
importantly, collect the bodies for autopsy so
the impact of new and existing diseases on
hare populations could be determined.
“Hare deaths are still being reported to us
and we are still collecting the bodies to test
for RHDV2 and other pathogens that could be
contributing to the decline,” Bell says.
Hares can be distinguished from rabbits
because they are larger, have longer hind legs
and black-tipped ears that are as least as long
as their heads.
“It’s still too early to say which diseases
are most common at the moment but the
expanding dataset will allow us to map
reported mortalities over time,” Bell says.
Bell asks anyone finding a freshly dead hare
to email her at d.bell@uea.ac.uk
UEA worked with Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex
Wildlife Trusts, the Department for Food
and Rural Affairs and the APHA Surveillance
Intelligence Unit on the research.
Oz dairy getting mandatory code of conduct
A draft mandatory dairy code
of conduct has been released
by the Australian government
aimed at leveling the playing
field between dairy producers
and processors.
Agriculture Minister David
Littleproud says the draft code
had been released as part of
the consultation to ensure
everyone gets to have their say.
“A mandatory code will be
an industry-defining moment,
so I want all dairy farmers,
processors and stakeholders
to stay involved in shaping it,”
Littleproud says.
“Milk levies come and go but
the mandatory code would
help balance the market
power between dairy farmers
and processors and improve
farmers’ bargaining power.”
The proposed code will cover
about 87 dairy processors and
about 5,800 dairy farmers in
an industry worth almost A$4.3
billion (£2.43 billion).
It will cover agreements of
LEFT: Aussies work on
mandatory dairy code of conduct.
(Photo: PricewaterhouseCoopers)
any length.
Changes to industry practice
include preventing unilateral
changes to agreements; a
standard form agreement
that includes the minimum;
preventing retrospective
price step downs; preventing
arrangements with exclusive
supply and two-tier pricing;
and prohibiting processors
from withholding loyalty
payments if a farmer switches
The Australian Consumer and
Competition Commission would
become involved in disputes if
a breach of the code occurred.
It would assess claimed
breaches and award penalties.
The Australian dairy industry
was deregulated in 1999.
Since then, the structure of
the industry has changed
significantly as a result of the
consolidation of dairy farm
enterprises and the widespread
privatisation of processors.
At the time of deregulation,
more than 75 per cent of milk
processing was controlled by
farmer-owned co-operatives.
Now, most major processors
are multinational or listed
companies and four of them
account for 55 per cent of the
milk-processing market.
There have been relatively
consistent findings of an
imbalance in bargaining power
between dairy farmers and
processors, some standard
industry practices deterring
farmers switching to competing
processors, and dairy farmer
and processor bargaining
power imbalance.
Changing face of Kiwi livestock
EW Zealand’s changing livestock focus is reflected in new
data showing the dairy cattle
herd dipped last year and the sheep
flock shrunk yet again, while beef
cattle numbers increased strongly.
provisional figures from last year’s
agricultural production survey showed dairy cattle numbers fell one
per cent to 6.4 million.
This followed a similar small drop in
Agricultural production statistics
manager Stuart Pitts says dairy cattle
numbers have been relatively steady
since peaking at 6.7 million in 2014.
“Dairy products are a huge export
for New Zealand,” he says. “The value
of milk powder, butter, and cheese
exports for the year ended June 2018
was NZ$14.1 billion (£7.4 billion),”
Pitts said.
Beef cattle numbers rose for the
second year in a row, up five per cent
to 3.8 million.
Sheep numbers settled one per cent
to 27.3 million.
“Sheep numbers have fallen in 10 of
the past 12 years, in total down about
12.8 million from about 40.1 million in
2006,” Pitts said.
“New Zealand now has 5.6 sheep
for every person, after peaking at 22
sheep for every person in 1982.”
The large fall in sheep and beef
cattle numbers since 1990 means
overall stock units have fallen in the
STAGES: The various stages of processing
rye (top left to bottom right): rye berries,
coarsely ground rye berries, rye bran, and
alkylresorcinols extracted and purified from rye
bran. (Photo: Ben Chrisfield)
Bran ingredient
preserves longer
natural antioxidant found in grain bran
is being touted as a way to preserve food
longer, replacing synthetic antioxidants
used by the food industry.
Researchers at Penn State University in the
United States say there’s a big consumerdriven push within the food industry to
replace synthetic ingredients with natural
Andrew Elder, a doctoral candidate in food
science, says consumers want synthetic
because they don’t recognize them, and some
have purported toxicity.
But Elder says there are not many natural
alternatives for synthetic antioxidants.
“Our work is focused on identifying new
natural antioxidants to extend the shelf life of
food and meet consumer demands,” he says.
The Penn State researchers turned to a class
of compounds called alkylresorcinols (AR).
Plants such as wheat, rye and barley produce
ARs naturally to prevent mold, bacteria and
other organisms from growing on the grain
kernels. The researchers wondered if ARs
could also preserve food in the same way from
a chemical standpoint.
Complicating the issue is the food industry
is supplementing more foods with oils rich
in omega-3 fatty acids to boost the health
benefits for consumers.
Omega-3 rich oils have a shorter shelf life.
“Most people consume omega-3s from marine
sources,” Elder says. “As they break down,
they can make the product smell and taste
fishy. Consumers then throw these products
out and don’t buy them again.”
Antioxidants slow the rate at which omega-3
fatty acids degrade, preventing food from
spoiling as quickly.
ARs, which can help protect against cancer,
come from the bran layer of cereal plants the
food industry usually discards or uses for
animal feed.
past 28 years, despite a rise in dairy
cattle numbers.
The stock unit is based on the
annual feed needed for a 55kg ewe
rearing a single lamb. A dairy cow is
the equivalent of about seven ewes,
so is counted as seven stock units,
compared with just one stock unit for
a ewe.
Last year New Zealand was home
to 86 million stock units, down from
94 million in 2004 and 100 million in
1990 when more than half were sheep,
with most of the rest beef and dairy
“The large drop in stock units since
1990 mainly reflects a halving in
sheep numbers, down from 53 million FLOCK: New Zealand sheep numbers on a downhill road.
stock units to 25 million,” Pitts said.
(Photo: Arcadia Marketing)


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