Written health plans absent from flocks

Almost one-third of UK sheep flocks have no written health plan in place to protect animals from disease, according to the Moredun Institute’s latest flock health survey of more than 500 farms across the UK and Ireland.

Announcing the results of the survey at Moredun’s annual press day earlier this week, Moredun director Julie Fitzpatrick said a further 33% had a health plan which had been constructed with no external help, while just 22% had input from their farm’s vet when planning a flock health strategy.

But National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said the lack of a written health plan did not necessarily reflect a lack of concern from farmers.

“It is far more likely that it is a reflection of the ever-increasing burden of paperwork on the industry.

Most farms will have a health plan, but it will be noted in the farmer’s mind, not in paper form.”

Mr Thorley did, however, suggest more sheep farms could make use of their vets in a business advisory role.

“Bringing in a vet to analyse drug use and flock management can highlight whether flock management can be adjusted for optimum profitability.

Using vets as an extra pair of eyes can be a positive benefit to the business, although many farms fail to recognise it.”

Meanwhile, the survey also highlighted that just 26% of respondents were members of a sheep health scheme and, of those, only half were members for disease control reasons.

The remaining 13% were split between economic reasons, welfare reasons and other reasons, said Prof Fitzpatrick.