RUMA commentary on The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway

RUMA was pleased to hear the plans for the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway from UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice, which he set out at the recent NFU Conference. The pathway is a programme of financial support for farmers in the pig, cattle, sheep and poultry sectors and will push forward and support continual improvement in farm animal health and welfare.

The pathway is a key part of the farming reforms set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, delivering benefits for animal health and welfare, farm productivity, food security, public health, UK trade and the environment. RUMA Chair, Cat McLaughlin, who also sits on the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway Steering Group, said: “The pathway is an important initiative for UK farming and will further support the commitment of the industry to continue to drive the best health and welfare outcomes.

“The pathway starts with an annual vet visit subsidised by the government, which will give farmers and vets dedicated time to review, refine and where necessary strengthen animal health and welfare plans, which will also drive improved profitability.

“The vet visits which are expected to launch later this year, will cover diagnostic testing, review of biosecurity and discussions around the responsible use of medicines.”

Chris Lloyd, RUMA Secretary General added: “The pathway project is a potential game-changer for the livestock sectors and represents a fresh and positive shift in government policy to help farmers with the health and welfare of their livestock.

“Providing funding to enable farmers to have time set aside with their vet to review and refine a farm’s proactive health management plans, is a really positive opportunity. The vet and farmer relationship is so important, and this initiative will have ongoing benefits and impacts.”

The initiative will also include measures such as 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 to 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.

At the NFU conference, 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.”

Chief Vet, Christine Middlemiss said:

“I hope to see wide-scale adoption of the Annual Health and Welfare Review as part of normal business practice, more farmers taking action to improve health and welfare, and improved outcomes when it comes to endemic diseases and conditions – which will improve animal health welfare and reduce waste, antibiotic use and financial losses.”