Cereals 2021: Livestock farmers to receive free annual vet health checks

Livestock producers in England are to receive a free annual veterinary review to improve animal health and reduce disease incidents on their farms. 

Speaking at the Cereals event on Wednesday (30 June), Defra secretary George Eustice said the review would form the first stage of the government’s Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.

The policy would be introduced in 2022 as part of Defra’s transition to a new UK farming policy, he said.

See also: Farmers to be paid for delivery of better animal welfare

“We are going to pay farmers to have a vet to do an annual review of their herd and come up with a management plan to try to manage down diseases and the overall health of their herd – thus promoting profitability as well,” said Mr Eustice.

The yearly vet visit to eligible farms will enable Defra to better understand the health and welfare of the national herd and flock and help to target future support in the right way. Payments for the annual review are expected to range from £269-£775, depending on the species.

The review would be conducted by the farm’s regular vet – not a government appointee, said Mr Eustice. The vet would put together a health plan for the farm business – including ways to manage disease and improve welfare.

“We all know that individual holdings will have different challenges with different endemic diseases, and all too often farmers call the vet when there is a particular crisis when they are fire-fighting, said Mr Eustice.

“We think there is a real advantage in having a more strategic annual visit from a vet with a coherent plan to improve animal health,” he added. “If we can improve animal health and reduce mortality, we will simultaneously improve farm profitability.”

The government would not prescribe the type of vet who undertook the review, said Mr Eustice. In most situations, it would be the vet most familiar with the farm business – including homeopathic vets if that was the case.

‘Crucial first step’ 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said the announcement was a “real win” and a “crucial first step” towards improving the health and welfare of the nation’s herds and flocks.

“We know there are some animals that have no access to veterinary healthcare and we welcome this opportunity to reach those farms so we can bring veterinary value to improving health, welfare and productivity,” said BVA president James Russell.

“There is much more detail to be worked out and BVA is actively working with government and farmers to co-design what this looks like in practice.

“We welcome this first step that will help us to understand the bigger picture on health and welfare so we can target our efforts to make improvements on priority diseases.”

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