In the latest edition of Pig World, Lauren Dimmack AHDB senior animal health & welfare scientist outlined the latest progress with the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway
Working on various disease surveillance projects at AHDB, the idea of a Defra-funded scheme to help the industry work collaboratively to control, and eventually eradicate, endemic diseases was an exciting prospect.
Historically, disease control schemes have been challenged by a lack of funding or the risk of re-infection if neighbouring units have different disease priorities. By agreeing a list of collective priorities, providing sustained funding and with the goal of being available to all producers, the Pathway should be different.
In a nutshell, providing the funding to make the best use of everyone’s expertise in working towards the same goal – continuous, measurable improvements in health and welfare.
Over the past two years, species-specific working groups consisting of farmers, their vets, industry specialists and Defra have worked to design a programme, known as the Health and Welfare Pathway, to help farmers make the bigger-impact changes to the health and welfare of their livestock, without compromising on profit.
Defra has been very keen to encourage farmers and their vets to be at the heart of the delivery, and these discussions have been key to designing the first stages. The working groups have identified a list of priority diseases for each species so that everyone involved is working towards both individual benefits of disease control on their farm, and also for the wider industry.
The Pathway starts with a Defra-funded health and welfare review by a farm vet. This will be bespoke to the needs of each farm and any discussions will remain confidential.
Diagnostic testing will also be provided to set the foundations for progress and help to identify the disease status of farms. This will enable a more targeted, collaborative plan to control disease, looking holistically at opportunities across the whole supply chain.
Similar funding is available for demonstrating measurable improvements in welfare outcomes. Discussions are ongoing within the industry working groups to agree priorities and how to address them.
The main ambition is that the Pathway will become accessible to all farmers in a united force to reduce endemic disease and achieve progressive improvements in animal welfare. For the process to be successful, the industry working groups will need to meet regularly to feed back and adapt to meet the changing needs of the industry.
The benefits extend wider than purely animal health and welfare too. A national herd with a higher health status will be more efficient and need less veterinary medicine.
There is no denying that the Pathway targets are ambitious, but this is a real opportunity to make huge steps in shaping the future of farmed animal health and welfare.
Listen to AHDB’s recent podcast on the topic or visit: defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/tag/animal-health-and-welfare-pathway