Defra secretary George Eustice has announced the payments rates that livestock farmers will receive to carry out annual veterinary visits aimed at improving health and welfare in cattle, sheep and pigs.
Livestock farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme in England will receive payments to cover the visits for their herds at the following rates: £684 for pigs, £436 for sheep, £522 for beef cattle and £372 for dairy cattle for a yearly visit. They will be able to negotiate rates with their chosen vets.
Funding for the visits, which will last between two and three hours, will be available from next month. Defra plans to extend the scheme in the future to other livestock, including goats.
Mr Eustice was set to unveil the payment rates during his speech to farmers at the annual NFU Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday 22 February.
“Too often farmers only call a vet when there is a crisis, but with an annual vet visit to develop better animal health plans, they will see both animal welfare and their farm profitability will improve,” he will tell delegates.
Vets will look at the health and welfare of the farm’s animals, including biosecurity and the responsible use of medicines. Following the visits, farmers will receive a report from the vet, which will include some actions they can take to improve health and welfare.
This may include advice on action to take resulting from testing and signposting to other support, including future grants and disease control schemes. However, the report will not be shared with the government and is between the farmer and vet.
The payments form part of the UK government’s post-Brexit Agricultural Transition Plan, which includes measures to promote the production of healthier, higher-welfare animals – to be mapped out through the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.
Mr Eustice is also expected to tell livestock farmers that he aims to support them to produce “healthier, higher-welfare animals” as they adapt to global health challenges such as antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic disease outbreaks and biodiversity loss.
Other measures include upgrading housing for dairy cattle to deliver improvements in lameness, cow comfort and calf mortality.
The minister will also make clear that he sees the pathway as a chance to level up opportunities for farmers across England – wherever they may be – and improve productivity outcomes through less disease, less reliance on antimicrobials, better accommodation for livestock and better husbandry.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy the UK is designing a new, fairer farming system that works in the best interests of British farmers.”
By fostering change and innovation through the pathway, the government expects to see benefits for farm productivity, food security, public health, animal health and welfare, the environment and trade.