Thankfully, the Government did listen to our outcry on welfare codes

Duncan Berkshire is one of the lead vets within the five-vet pig team at Bishopton Veterinary Group, based in Yorkshire

As we come to the end of another year, it is always good to look back at some of the experiences we can learn from, along with putting some plans in place for the future. And what a year it has been…

Antibiotics have been on the agenda once more, and some great strides in antibiotic reduction have already been made, as shown by the figures being entered on the electronic medicine book. This is now starting to be recognised both across and outside the pig sector.

An antibiotics roundtable earlier in the year showed how enthusiastic our sector is to make progress here, with UK Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies remarking on how well we had progressed, especially in relation to some of our international competitors. This has been backed up recently by her public declaration advising consumers to buy Red Tractor pork products to be confident of low antibiotic use – what a remarkable achievement considering the enormous pressure we were all under two years ago to make some sort of progress.

Europe and welfare have dominated the rest of the year, with the consultation on the new Welfare Codes being such an important part of spring – a very short turnaround for a major piece of work with so many effects on producers and their pigs. Thankfully, the Government listened to the outcry from our sector and we are now in discussions about how the new Codes will finally form the basis for the future of our sector.

With any new legislation or interpretation come improvements that will need to be taken on board so that our continued progress can be made in both the health and welfare of the pigs in our care. These improvements will become clearer and it will then be over to producers, their vets and advisors to make sure we can get everything organised and in place within the relevant timeframes.

It’s not a challenge the UK pig sector will, or should, shy away from if we are to stay proud of the animals we look after and the products we produce.

So what other plans do we need to have in mind over the coming year? Well on top of the new Codes, we will have further information on how they will be inspected on farm. We will also have the continued implementation of the new Red Tractor inspection protocols, and we should have further clarity over post-Brexit trade.

One thing is for sure – whatever the challenges that may appear over the next 12 months, the pig sector has always proved to be flexible and innovative and I look forward to us progressing together through 2019.

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