Government reveals financial help for farmers to improve animal health and welfare

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has welcomed news this week (22 February) that the Government will help fund improvements in the health and welfare of livestock, including fully-funded annual vet visits and grants to improve conditions for livestock.

Speaking at the NFU Conference yesterday, DEFRA’s Secretary of State George Eustice revealed details of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway– a programme of financial support for farmers in the pig, cattle, sheep and poultry sectors, based around key animal health and welfare priorities.

These include reducing mastitis and lameness in dairy cattle, improving biosecurity to control pig diseases endemic to the UK and improving the feather cover of laying hens.

To help farming sectors make these improvements, Animal Health and Welfare Grants will be launched within the next year. These will help fund investments such as equipment and technology or larger projects like upgrading housing for dairy cattle to deliver improvements in lameness, cow comfort and calf mortality.

As part of the Pathway, the Government will initially offer cattle, sheep and pig farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme funding for an annual visit from a vet of their choice. This will enable them to carry out diagnostic testing, review biosecurity and responsible use of medicines, and provide advice relating to the health and welfare of their animals. These visits will launch later this year and the offer will be further extended over time to other types of livestock farmers.

The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway will also include a disease eradication and control programme. This will allow farmers to apply for financial support to enable them to take measures to prevent and reduce endemic diseases affecting livestock, such as veterinary advice, vaccination, or improvements to on-farm management.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway is for those farmers who are in pursuit of higher profitability through better health outcomes, and it starts with an annual vet visit.

“Farmers will be able to have a vet of their choice, the family vet that they trust, and the Government will pay. That vet will be able to help the farmer put together a plan for improved animal health and improved profitability on their livestock holding.”

Commenting on the Pathway’s launch, RABDF Vice-Chairman Di Wastenage said: “The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway is a massive step in helping take the already high health and welfare status of our national herd to that next level.

“Endemic diseases and conditions such as lameness are a huge drain on farms. So, the bespoke reports farmers receive after their initial vet visit will set the foundations for which farmers and their vets can build on to improve the health of their livestock.”

Mrs Wastenage added: “The Pathway demonstrates the Government’s long-term commitment to drive animal health and welfare priorities. It’s important as an industry we embrace this and recognise the difference this can make.

“Having a higher health national flock or herd will have a reduced need for veterinary medicines and particularly antibiotics. This means stock will be more efficient reducing the effect on the environment and it will also underpin our international reputation for good health and welfare, which will help bolster our export opportunities,” said Ms Wastenage.

Further information on how livestock farmers can apply for the first step of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, the Annual Health and Welfare Review, will be shared in the Spring.

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