Welsh animal health project shows value of proactive approach

A one-third reduction in ewe lameness and a near-halving of barren rates in suckler cows were among improvements seen on farms at the end of a five-year animal health project in Wales.

In addition, independent cost-benefit analysis of farms taking part in the Stoc+ project showed the Welsh red meat sector could gain an extra £8m annually if the improvements seen were applied across all farms in Wales.

See also: 4 essential checks to improve suckler herd efficiency

Animal welfare and efficiency

Stoc+ was set up by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) to encourage farmers and vets to collaborate by compiling, reviewing and carrying out proactive flock and herd health management plans.

The aim was to show the potential benefit of ongoing animal health improvements that could support animal welfare, sustainability and efficiency.

This was done by maximising the wellbeing and performance of livestock and effectively targeting interventions.

In many cases, these improvements also led to increased profitability.

Sheep health

A sub-section of sheep farms taking part in Stoc+, selected for cost-benefit analysis (based on the main health or disease priority on their farm, among other criteria), showed the following improvements:

  • Lamb survival from scanning to rearing increased by more than 2.5%, with 65% of farms showing an improvement
  • The number of lame ewes fell by more than 33%
  • 5% of farmers reduced the time they spent treating lame sheep
  • A better understanding of internal parasite control and adopting methods to assess risk and the need for treatment.

Cattle improvements

Data from beef farms involved in the cost-benefit analysis showed:

  • Suckler cows recorded a reduction in barren rate from 9% to 5%
  • Pneumonia cases in animals over six months of age reduced by 59%
  • 80% of suckler farmers recorded higher scanning percentages.

John Richards, producer and processor lead at HCC, said: “Having spent five years on the project, it is wonderful to see the potential benefits that proactive flock and herd health planning presents those in the sector in Wales.”

HCC’s Stoc+ was one of three five-year projects in the Red Meat Development Programme.