Livestock producers will have to pay an annual fee under DEFRA proposals to make farmers help pay for animal disease outbreaks.

A government consultation later this year is also likely to include the creation of an independent statutory body for animal health and welfare for England.

“DEFRA is proposing to consult on specific proposals later this autumn as part of the wider responsibility and cost sharing agenda,” confirmed a department spokesman.

An annual fee based livestock registration scheme would be used to raise an industry contribution for animal disease control, he added.

Other European countries have had their own cost-sharing systems for some time.

European schemes range from voluntary private insurance with subsidised premiums in Spain to the use of bank guarantees in the Netherlands.

But the government favours a German-style system, where animal disease funds are jointly financed by livestock producers and the state.

The UK government agency Animal Health is primarily responsible for ensuring that farmed animals are healthy, disease-free and well looked after.

But farm leaders believe a more arms-length body is vital if there is to be a true partnership between the farming industry and government.

Primary legislation will be needed if the government is to set up a wholly independent agency to deal with animal health and welfare.