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Defra Money for Farm Health Planning
05/06/07

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.

dairy cattle
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 assurance.

“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 said

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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