Mole Valley Farmers has welcomed a government move to fund improvements to the health and welfare of livestock, including annual vet visits and grants to improve livestock conditions.
Speaking at the recent NFU annual conference, Environment Secretary George Eustice revealed details of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway – a programme of financial support for the pig, cattle, sheep and poultry sectors, based around key animal health and welfare priorities.
These include reducing mastitis and lameness in dairy cattle, improving biosecurity to control pig diseases endemic to the UK and improving the feather cover of laying hens.
The Animal Health and Welfare Grants will be launched within the next 12 months to fund investments like equipment and technology, or larger projects like upgrading housing
for dairy cattle, to deliver improvements in lameness, cow comfort and calf mortality.
As part of the pathway, the government will initially offer cattle, sheep and pig farmers, eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme, funding for an annual visit from a vet of their choice.
This will enable them to carry out diagnostic testing, review biosecurity and responsible use of medicines, as well as giving advice on the health and welfare of their animals. The vet visits will launch later this year and the offer will be extended over time to other types of livestock farmers.
The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway will also include a disease eradication and control programme offering farmers financial support to prevent and reduce endemic diseases affecting livestock, such as veterinary advice, vaccination or improvements to on-farm management.
George Eustice told delegates: “The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway is for those farmers who are in pursuit of higher
profitability through better health outcomes and it starts with an annual vet visit.
“Farmers will be able to have a vet of their choice, the family vet they trust, and the government will pay. That vet will be able to help the farmer put together a plan
for improved animal health and improved profitability on their livestock holding.”
Commenting on the Pathway’s launch, RABDF Chairman Di Wastenage said: “The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway is a massive step in helping take the already high health and welfare status of our national herd to the next level.
“Endemic diseases and conditions such as lameness are a huge drain on farms. So, the bespoke reports farmers receive after their initial vet visit will set the foundations from which farmers and their vets can build on to improve the health of their livestock.
“A higher health national flock or herd will have a reduced need for veterinary
medicines and particularly antibiotics. This means stock will be more efficient reducing the effect on the environment. It will also underpin our international reputation for good health and welfare, which will help bolster our export opportunities.”
Further information on how livestock farmers can apply for the first step of the pathway, the Annual Health and Welfare Review, will be announced soon.