The Brexit lambs posing pricing problems

  • 5 July 2019
  • From the section England
A farm lamb
Image caption Lamb attracts a tariff of about 40% under World Trade Organisation rules

I've been to see some Brexit lambs in Redditch this week. Born in March they will be ready for slaughter at the end of October, almost exactly when we are due to leave the European Union. And how we leave, with or without a deal, will have a drastic impact on the price the farmer gets for them. Or indeed if they will at all.

About a third of our lambs go for export and they usually go to European countries. But in parts of the Midlands, some farmers have flocks that are entirely for export and we also have companies like Farmers Fresh in Kenilworth that have built up a strong business by supplying meat for the export trade.

Brexit is already having a big impact on sheep farmers. Across the UK the number of breeding ewes has dropped by about 20% as farmers scale back production, unsure exactly what is going to happen at the end of October. And what really worries them is a no-deal Brexit.

Frightening

Sheep farmer Sam Jones voted leave but he told me a no-deal Brexit would be "frightening" for his business.

Image caption Sam Jones on his farm near Redditch where he looks after a flock of about 1,200 animals

If we leave without a deal then automatically all our exports are covered by World Trade Organisation rules. These introduce tariffs, or taxes, on lots of things we export. There's a lot of complex history behind the levels of the various tariffs and what they apply to, but farmers in particular get it in the neck.

Read full article The Brexit lambs posing pricing problems

Does compression gym gear actually benefit the wearer?

A cyclist taking part in the trial
Image caption Twenty-five cyclists took part in the tests at the University of Birmingham

I'm very definitely a "MAMIL" - a middle-aged man in lycra - who spends not as much time as he'd like in the gym.

But as I'm getting older I'm more and more interested in anything that might help improve my workout and even aid recovery.

Read full article Does compression gym gear actually benefit the wearer?

CBD oil products - fad or the future of food?

Cans of the fizzy drink
Image caption A company says it is the first to make a fizzy drink containing CBD

CBD oil is derived from cannabis and hemp plants and it's suddenly everywhere.

From coffee to frozen yogurt to balms, drops and even cosmetics... and all on sale online or on your local high street.

Read full article CBD oil products - fad or the future of food?

Roaches recovery eight months after fire disaster

Footage shows smoke billowing into the air
Image caption Drone footage of the fire from August last year

In August last year a devastating fire swept through the Staffordshire Roaches leaving around 20% of this important wildlife area blackened and lifeless.

Last week I was offered the chance to go back and see how nature is recovering. And sadly it isn't good news.

Read full article Roaches recovery eight months after fire disaster

Electric cars and the councils that have run out of juice

  • 5 April 2019
  • From the section England
Electric charging point
Image caption Rapid charging points in Coventry city centre

The government has set some ambitious targets to increase the use of electric vehicles, for all the usual green reasons.

But new research from the BBC's Shared Data Unit shows there's a real postcode lottery when it comes to that most vital bit of having an electric car - somewhere to charge it once you leave home.

Read full article Electric cars and the councils that have run out of juice

How magpie myths help with wildlife conservation effort

Magpie

What's the best way to get kids excited about wildlife and conservation?

Is it to fill them up with science about diet and range and populations? Or can you give them a sense of wildlife wonder with facts about folklore and history?

Read full article How magpie myths help with wildlife conservation effort

Sooty terns: A squid diet causes population problems for sea birds

A sooty tern chick on Ascension Image copyright University of Birmingham
Image caption A sooty tern chick on Ascension

University of Birmingham scientists have cracked a wildlife mystery - a mysterious population crash in seabird numbers on Ascension Island in the Atlantic.

Once there were millions of sooty terns on Ascension now there are just a few hundred thousand.

Read full article Sooty terns: A squid diet causes population problems for sea birds

When aliens attack Antarctica

  • 12 January 2019
  • From the section England
Eretmoptera murphyi
Image caption Eretmoptera murphyi, the tiny flightless midge causing all the problems

This tiny bug is technically the largest land animal that lives permanently in Antarctica. (Penguins and seals don't count as they are marine animals.) Unfortunately, it's not supposed to be there and new research from the University of Birmingham has revealed the size of the problems it's causing.

Eretmoptera murphyi is a flightless midge that arrived on the Antarctic island of Signy in the 1960s and, rather embarrassingly, it was brought there by scientists conducting an experiments on plants.

Read full article When aliens attack Antarctica

Big changes to recycling black plastic

  • 14 December 2018
  • From the section England
Herbs ready for next year being potted up in the plastic pots
Image caption The taupe pots are being made by a company in Tipton

Traditional black plastic plant pots are being replaced with a new colour.

The change will allow the pots to be put straight into household recycling for the first time.

Read full article Big changes to recycling black plastic

Detecting gravitational waves caused by black holes

  • 11 December 2018
  • From the section England
Artists impression of two black holes locked in a “death spiral” Image copyright LIGO
Image caption An artist's impression of two black holes locked in a death spiral

If I'm honest, I was a bit jealous when gravitational waves were discovered. One hundred years after Einstein said they existed, researchers from the University of Birmingham throw the switch on their big new detector and find gravitational waves on day one.

I mean, who does science like that? That's just showing off.

Read full article Detecting gravitational waves caused by black holes