RUMA hears from a key industry expert on how the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway (AHWP) will play a role in helping the pig sector, especially when it comes to tackling specific disease challenges

RUMA hears from Stewart Houston CBE, Chair of the Pig Pathway and Welfare Pathway Group, about how the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway (AHWP) will play a role in helping the pig sector especially when it comes to tackling specific disease challenges.

About the AHWP

Stewart says: “The new pathway will help support continued improvements in farm animal health and welfare in England and is very much a partnership, designed by farmers, vets and colleagues in Defra.  The first element of the Pathway, the funded Annual Health and Welfare Review, is now being rolled out which is a funded annual vet visit.”

The visit can be undertaken whenever it is convenient and provides dedicated time for farmers and vets to concentrate on specific animal health and welfare priorities. 

Stewart continues: “During this visit, the vet will provide farmers with tailored advice. They’ll also carry out some diagnostic testing around endemic diseases — all of which have been agreed by the farmers and vets who helped to design the Pathway. This is an important opportunity for farmers to work closely with their chosen vet to address any disease challenges and boost their overall productivity and ultimately, profitability.”

In a new blog on the Defra website, Stewart said:

“The feedback we’ve had from those who’ve taken part in the testing is really encouraging. They commented on how straightforward it was to sign up, the effectiveness of the visit and the promptness of the payments.

“We really encourage everyone to consider the offer. It’s an opportunity to boost your profitability and prevent you from losing money through endemic disease and conditions such as lameness.”

“The review can be undertaken whenever it works for you. It will allow you and your vet to concentrate on your animals’ specific health and welfare priorities.”

But it’s not just about that all important dedicated time for conversations, it’s also about some priority testing. Stewart continues: “During the visit, the vet will provide bespoke advice and also carry out some diagnostic testing around endemic diseases – in the case of pigs, this is for PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome).”

From March 2023, farmers will be able to apply for animal health and welfare capital grants through the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund. These grants are for between £1000 and £25,000 towards the cost of a list of items that offer improvements in the health and welfare of livestock. For pig sector this means e.g. Electronic weighing and sorting facility, Feed bin weighing equipment or Portable loading ramps to name but a few.

Animal Health and Welfare grants: apply now – Farming (

Stewart continues: “At this stage in the journey of the Pathway when considering specific sectors like pigs, it’s about prioritisation in addressing key sector diseases. PRRS can be vaccinated against so the first step through diagnostic testing will be to start producing PRRS free weaners.  

“It’s about the here and now; providing the right tools and working collaboratively – that’s what is going to achieve the best outcomes and let’s not forget that the pig industry in particular has already made great progress in its reductions in antibiotic use, so this is a highly engaged sector that is committed to collaborative working.”

Stewart adds: “As soon as we have tested the service and it is ready to be made available to more farmers, we will gradually, step by step, open the program up to non-BPS registered farmers, large and small. We’ll learn lessons from the initial roll out and reflect what we learn in improvements to the service as we go. 

“This really is a great opportunity to make a difference to the health and welfare of farmed livestock.”

Animal Health and Welfare Pathway – GOV.UK (

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