AHBIC wishes to thank all those who contribute to the support of the organisation. It would be prudent, when purchasing queen bees or selling honey, to consider supporting those who support the industry and conduct price comparisons on that basis. A list of all current contributors appears below.
They’re Burning Animals Again!
The following is an extract from "The Economist" March 3rd to 9th 2001.
In the face of foot-and-mouth disease and BSE, Europeans cannot simply reject modern intensive agriculture and turn organic.
It has been a good time to be a vegetable – or, at least, a vegetarian. All across Western Eurpoe farm animals are being slaughtered and burned in huge funeral pyres, in a desperate effort to halt the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, which has broken out in Britain, and to eliminate it as quickly as possible. All this when the smoke had cleared from efforts to rid cattle herds of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad-cow disease, which had also spread from Britain to the continent. This time, it is not just cows that are going up in flames, but also sheep, pigs, deer and any other cloven-hoofed livestock that have recently been exported from Britain.
The sense of crisis is at its greatest on this side of the channel, where restrictions have been increasing on the movement not only of animals or meat that might carry the disease but also people. Sporting events are being cancelled, footpaths closed, protest marches postponed, and the government’s thoughts of an April general election are fading by the day. But this disease is so virulent and, although safe for humans, so debilitating to the productivity and value of farm animals that continental European governments too are talking of ‘catastrophe’ and of drastic measures. Meanwhile those farmers not too depressed by the sight of their livestock and livelihoods burning away, have been renewing their already vociferous calls for compensation, for subsidies – for anything but the cuts in support from Europe’s common agricultural policy (CAP) that most people think are inevitable as Europe enlarges to the east.
It is not a pretty, or terribly edifying sight, whether for farmers, carnivorous consumers, politicians or those who care about animals. But what is to be done about it? Should we (ie, European consumers, and those elsewhere in the world who share the same worries) all start eating food only from organic farms, which produce locally, slaughter locally and avoid all artificial fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics?
Those who prefer such organic food should do so, by all means. They would thus limit two possible sources of today’s ills: the widespread movement of livestock, which has enabled the foot-and-mouth outbreak to affect such a large area so quickly; and the use of ‘unnatural’ feeds, which lay behind the spread of BSE. But this would hardly be a complete protection: Britain’s last foot-and-mouth epidemic was in the more organic days of 1967, while America last suffered in 1929. And those who chose the exclusively organic route would pay several, high prices.
One is literal: the price of organically produced food is higher than that from more intensive farms, and is likely to remain so. Yields are lower, costs are greater. Another is a lessening of variety. Although people’s desire for abundant, cheap food is the big reason for intensive modern farming, another is the taste for variety that has come from affluence and from fast, cheaper transport. Fruits and vegetables have lost their seasons and have been supplemented by exotic species, and once-scarce foods such as salmon and venison have become more common. So food moves about all over the place, alive or dead, and is kept fresh or safe by many means, some artificial.
The word ‘artificial’ is important, because it is slippery. The use of chemicals and drugs in farming is viewed with much suspicion – almost as much, in some quarters, as the evolving experiments in genetic modification. Some of this use arises because of intensive farming methods: keeping animals shut up in pens or battery sheds makes them more prone to disease, which leads farmers to use antibiotics. But not all: many drugs and chemicals are used to make food – good wholesome food – safer. In some countries, indeed, vaccination is the method used to control foot-and-mouth disease. Its only disadvantage is that it makes the disease harder to detect, because vaccinated animals produce similar test results to diseased ones.
Living With Modernity
So, although to become organic will be a legitimate choice for some, it is far from cost-free. Even Germany’s Green farms minister, Renate Künast, admits that organic farming is unlikely to account for more than 20% of the German market within a decade, and even that may be optimistic. Calls – partly from Ms Künast herself – to shift European farm subsidies are not the solution. By boosting CAP spending at just the time when it is coming under pressure from East European applicants, such support would be likely to become part of the problem.
Like it or not, the preferences of modern consumers for cheap, varied, all-year-round food mean that farming is going to remain intensive. The experience of the countries where agri-business is at its most industrial, America and Australia, suggest, however, that this need not make it unsafe. In those countries, indeed, the incidence of disease is lower than in Europe, perhaps because the very scale of operations makes it more necessary for farmers to maintain tight veterinary controls, and to innovate with new drugs and pesticides.
Part of Europe’s trouble may arise from wanting the best of both worlds. Local food supplies, even from fairly small farms, supported and guided by subsidies; but abundant, varied food, distributed through competitive supermarket chains who want to drive down their costs as far as they can.
To a degree, the foot-and-mouth epidemic is sui generis, a natural disaster that simply needs to be dealt with on its own terms. But if there is a wider lesson, it is not that Europe should close its doors, both on the world and on modern times. It is that the best course is to buy food from those who are really best at producing it, who are most technologically advanced at keeping it safe, and who, quite simply, produce the best food. Food cannot be cheap, local, green, safe and varied, all at the same time.
The Economist – March 3rd to 9th 2001
Protect Australian Livestock Week
Animal Health Australia is holding Protect Australian Livestock Week from March 25 to 31, 2001 and AHBIC is a strong supporter of this initiative. Following are guidelines to the most common questions and answers relating to emergency animal diseases for your reference.
Protect Australian Livestock Week aims to encourage all livestock owners and producers to:
Protect Australian Livestock Week is a national awareness campaign utilising advocates and the media to focus on the message "Look, check and ask a vet". The campaign kicks off with Protect Australian Livestock Week which is held from March 25 to 31, with the programme continuing throughout the year to ensure greater coverage.
Animal Health Australia
CROP, STOCK AND COMMITTEE REPORTS
Crop Report – New South Wales
Red stringy bark in some parts of the central area did not produce as well as expected because of the low level of moisture in the ground. In the south of the state, in areas that had more rain, production was much better. Good rains in the last two weeks have helped the prospect of mugga ironbark to produce a good flow. On the south coast, there are some good patches of spotted gum budded for a winter flow. White box is also well budded in the central west and there is some bud in the north. Napunyah is looking good and with some rain wanted next month a good crops will be expected.
Stock Report – New South Wales
Light honey is still in short supply and packers will be looking for supplies from napunyah and white box to ease the problem. I was surprised to see honey from Tasmania selling at Franklins at $1.59 for 500 grams.
Crop and Stock Report – Victoria
Red stringy bark flowering has nearly finished. Some apiaries are being moved out to the flat country on to patches of grey box, mainly in the central to eastern half of the state.
A sizeable crop has been produced. In north eastern Victoria apiaries in good condition have yielded three rounds - or two tins or better in the old scale of volume measurement. Some apiaries have not done as well, particularly those that were affected by heat stress and poor conditions earlier in the summer, and where significant overstocking of country by large outfits occurred. Gippsland red stringy has also performed well, but in central Victoria, yields have been very modest.
Importantly, all apiaries have received a much needed replenishment of nutrition and stores, although brood nests have generally tended to contract probably through a deficiency in one or more of the essential amino acids in the pollen of the red stringy this year. Where apiaries are now reaching manna and swamp gum pollen, brood nests have noticeably improved.
Grey box is yielding, but the budding is not general across the state, which will limit the extent of the crop.
In the western half of the state, brown stringy bark is proving useful, yielding nectar and good quantities of pollen that should provide a good base for working yellow gum pre winter and also helping to ensure adequate numbers of hives will be available for early spring pollination contracts.
As reported last month, yellow gum has budded for the fourth year in a row and some reports of early flowering have been received. Between the grey box and yellow gum pre winter, enough honey should be produced to allow all red string bark honey on the hives to be extracted. If, as is usually the case, a dry warm autumn sets in, a modest crop of yellow gum may be produced.
Prospects for next season across Victoria look to be outstanding, with the usual question mark over the 2002 autumn.
Resource Report – Queensland
Dr Aila Keto addressed our last management committee meeting and reported on her discussions with the board of the Queensland Conservation Council regarding our access to new conserved forests. I am rather disappointed at the result and there is a lot more work to do with the QCC. They are not yet convinced about our access to National Parks. However, they have much less worry about our use of National Parks (Recovery). It appears that they will agree to our having continuing access to our sites on that tenure for the next 15 years. A committee has been formed to help me on this issue, consisting of Winston Lamb and Trevor Weatherhead.
Crop Report – Tasmania
February and March were very dry in Tasmania. Just this weekend many parts have experienced their first rain of any consequence since late December/early January.
Early flowering leatherwood country soon dried off and the later areas flowered well but it did not last as the dry set in. Average crops only were gathered, with a few beekeepers in wetter areas getting a better yield. It has been very warm with hardly anything in the bush flowering to provide winter stores. Unless a late banksia flowers, hives will need early feeding.
Overseas sales are limited, local sales holding for good quality honey. Grocery shelf prices are showing a movement upwards for honey.
Crop Report – South Australia
Some rain fell in parts of South Australia on 16th March, with more forecast.
Riverland: White mallee well budded and half twin leaf alive and healthy. Early rain badly needed for good late autumn/early winter honey production. It is anticipated that it will be a difficult year to get bees prepared for almonds.
West Coast – Lower: Some isolated patches of peppermint producing and pockets of Lincoln weed producing. Recent rains should stabilise and increase potential of this resource. Prospects: Euc. diversifolia budding up for winter.
West Coast – Upper: Beed kept in this area in erratic condition due to the effect of the very hot weather during the summer. Some white mallee (Euc. gracilis) is beginning to produce honey. The winter mallee (Euc. diversifolia) is reasonably well budded in some areas and should provide good conditions for over wintering bees, with some honey production if weather is favourable.
Kangaroo Island: Sugar gum has finished, cup gum is flowering and yielding well. Bees are building up again after set-backs with the hot weather.
South East: Bees on string bark and Droopy blue gum around Naracoorte and on Stringy over the border into Victoria. It has yielded in patches but is now finishing in some areas. Bees are in good order. Good rains are needed now to shift onto winter sites. Some winter sites for Banksia are looking very dry with cobs dying – because of this some beekeepers are indicating they may not take bees into Ngarkat this year.
Northern – Upper: Grey box is flowering and yielding some honey.
Northern – Lower: Patchy budding on tea tree along with hot dry conditions were not conducive to honey production. Lincoln weed provided a useful breeding flow. Patches of peppermint and pockets of white mallee are starting to flower.
Central: Eucalypt prospects are looking good for spring. There is an increased demand for professional spring pollination.
Crop Report – Western Australia
The dry weather in the south western part of WA is still with us resulting in one of the worst Red Gum Flows in many years. There was a small amount of trees flowering north of Perth but it did not yield much honey only building up the bees with a good supply of pollen. The Powder Bark was patchy with a few beekeepers getting an extraction from it. The Tuart south of Perth is flowering now in small pockets next to the coast but it will not last very long. The winter White Gum has started to flower but we need more rain and some cooler weather before it will yield a good flow of honey. At the moment the bees are filling up slowly. Beekeepers who have contracts for pollination in the north west are getting ready to move bees up and there is demand for bees to fill up hives there.
Crop and Stock Report – Queensland
Queensland remains dry needing rain to ensure late Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer honey crops.
The best prospect is the Channel Country with a good budding on Yapunyah, however the region is so dry beekeepers are reluctant to move until rain falls. Hives moved onto early flowering areas have suffered badly from heat stress and in some cases have melted down. Hives that have been so badly stressed take time to recover. The other concern is that bud is very uniform in age and may signal a shorter than average flowering period.
Areas away from the Channel Country require good falls of rain and reports indicate only patchy budding on Grey Ironbark. Gum Top Box has been yielding a very thin nectar flow and bees have not been capping combs properly. This is generally regarded as a bad sign for hive condition. Messmate in the Granite Belt has provided good breeding conditions but has not yielded a major honey flow. Further south in NSW Messmate and Stringybark hives have had a better flow of honey.
The budding in the South East is very general but the region is not a major honey producing area in most seasons. All buds will be watched carefully.
Prospects to the end of December? To quote one beekeeper "I wouldn’t take a loan on them!".
Honey stocks remain low as the poor honey production conditions continue. What little honey has been produced has moved quickly into packers’ hands.
Illegal importation case
I have been informed that Terry Brown pleaded guilty and the sentence will be handed down in six (6) weeks time.
I am pleased to report that at the time of writing, there have been no incursions reported since the last newsletter. After last year, I had expected that we may get some more Apis cerana swarms from Papua New Guinea but this has not happened to date.
Varroa preparedness workshop
As I reported previously this is to be held in May. At the same time, we will be holding Competency training. I will be in contact with each State re participation.
Varroa in New Zealand
With varroa now well established in the North Island of New Zealand, I have been keeping up to date with their press releases on what is happening.
The latest is that New Zealand is looking to alternative methods of controlling varroa as compared to the usual acaricide.
Foot and Mouth Disease
All would be aware of the problems in the UK and Europe with the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD). In talking with some beekeepers in Australia, I got the impression that they felt they would not be affected if FMD came to Australia. Only the poor farmers with stock. WRONG
I have been in contact with beekeepers in the UK and they are certainly affected. One beekeeper in Scotland has 1,600 hives that he was feeding in preparation to go to canola (rape as they call it). He is still feeding his hives and is allowed access to most of his hives as they are on land that is not carrying stock. He is not sure if he will be allowed to shift his hives and says he may have to feed his hives in situ. Not a very good prospect particularly as he has had the past two seasons below average and was looking forward to a good season for a change.
In England, there are hives getting ready for pollination in Kent but it looks like they may not get there. Movement is restricted and there is a substantial fine if you illegally enter a property.
So, beekeepers in Australia can imagine what it would be like if FMD came to Australia. Migration would be restricted, certain honey flows would not be accessible and if hives were caught up in a restricted area, they could be there for a while. So, it is up to all beekeepers to preach the quarantine message.