Funding of over £1.6 million has been awarded by Defra to
kick start projects to help English cattle keepers improve their
farm animal health and welfare.
When the initiative was being constructed the National Beef
Association made clear to Defra that the best results would come
if funding for proactive herd health planning was targeted at
farm yard level.
This was accepted and late last year Defra opened tenders so
that interested parties could apply for the funding.
Some twenty-seven projects have received funding for a variety
of farm health planning programmes including farmer and vet training,
cattle disease control testing and the development of active
farm health planning on farms.
And the farmers and vets involved in these programmes will encourage
others to take up the concept because herd health planning is
not a short term venture.
“Active farm health planning means adopting a range of
measures to manage disease risk on-farm,” explained NBA
policy advisor, Kim Haywood.
“This involves good disease record keeping, identifying
existing health problems on-farm and prioritising the control
measures. Developing action plans for specific problems and assessing
whether measures have been effective and then reviewing health
plans on a regular basis are also key components.”
Participating farms also emphasise that Farm Health Planning
is not a once a year exercise introduced to qualify for farm
“It is a practical exercise in which health problems are
identified and tackled on a regular basis”, said Philip
Dale, farm manager of Rackham Farms Norwich.
“We thought pneumonia was a major problem in our feedlot
but after working with our vet we discovered it was actually
IBR and RSV. After treatment through a targeted vaccination programme
there was a tremendous improvement in cattle health and a big
cost saving for the farm and now we e constantly review all health
and welfare controls.”
“Knowing and improving the health status of your herd
not only results in a cost saving and better health and welfare
for the cattle but also opens up market potential as more buyers
are demanding to know what the health status of cattle are before
purchases are made.”
The initiative has been welcomed by Minister for Animal Health
and Welfare, Ben Bradshaw.
“Proactive farm health planning has real benefits for
farmers, both in terms of the health of their herds and the profitability
and sustainability of their farms. Disease is not inevitable
and we hope to see real improvements across the industry as a
result of this joint initiative between Government and industry,” he
These thoughts are echoed by vet, Tony O'Loughlin, from the
St David’s Farm Practice in Exmouth, Devon:
“My aim is to ensure that all our farms have a working
Herd Health Plan in place within the next 12 months. The Cattle
Initiative funding will enable us to complete this. We will be
setting up farmer discussion groups to share information, with
lectures at local Agriculture colleges to increase awareness
among young farmers. We believe that this approach will help
to make our farmers more aware of the cost effectiveness of good
management and disease control,” he added.
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