THE announcement delaying the two badger cull pilots expected this autumn in England was exceptionally difficult but on balance was the responsible and right thing to do.

The delay follows a series of obstacles that include the exceptional weather, delays because of the Olympics and Paralympics, legal challenges from those against the policy and the results from the recent badger population survey, which demonstrated how large the badger numbers are.

The news comes as a devastating blow to farmers who are desperate for a solution to the cycle of reinfection of TB in their herds.

But as farmers we take our responsibilities seriously and in following a science-led approach to reducing disease there has to be the confidence that this approach will in practice be delivered.

As winter approaches the odds in achieving the required decrease in badger population were going against us.

This is why, reluctantly, the decision had to be taken in England to delay until late spring next year.

It is no secret that Welsh cattle farmers have been keeping a close watching brief on the approach that is being adopted.

It is very much our hope that the lessons learned from the implementation of a comprehensive eradication strategy in England could be used as a model for us in Wales in the future.

The postponement in the implementation of the policy is a setback, but it would have been irresponsible and very much a case of acting in haste, repenting at leisure if the government and industry had moved ahead with the cull in England this autumn.   

Moving on to sheep, as thousands of lambs make their way to market over the autumn months the Welsh sheep industry needs to maintain producer confidence if we are to take advantage of the strong global demand for Welsh lamb.

Like many others in the agricultural industry, sheep producers have endured a challenging year due to a poor summer and a longer finishing period, but these are short-term factors - and it is essential processors and retailers take a longer-term view of the market and avoid sending out further negative signals to us farmers.

The Welsh national flock is showing signs of increasing after many years of declining numbers.

We know Welsh lamb is in demand on both home and export markets, but farmers need the confidence to invest in the future.

The boom-bust cycle of sheep pricing is not in the interests of the farmer, processor or retailer and sending out negative price signals is damaging to the entire sector.

The poor summer and rising input costs continue to erode farm margins, but the long-term outlook for the sheep industry is positive.

It is essential that we address the short-term problems.

Only by working together across the whole supply chain will we achieve a sustainable and profitable industry.