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Introducing the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway

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Copyright Natural England/Paul Glendell

I come from a pig farming background, although my dad was a joiner in a Tyneside shipyard.

I’ve been a member of Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Board for a number of years. We’ve worked on a huge variety of issues: from greyhounds to goats, cats to cows.

However, the most exciting piece of work for me has been the development of a proposition to improve the health and welfare of English farmed animals by controlling and eventually eliminating endemic diseases.

Over the last couple of years, a group of farmers, supported by vets, specialists and Defra colleagues have worked together to design a way to help fellow farmers bolster the health and welfare of their stock, whilst at the same time improving their bottom line. We’re calling it the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.

Right at the outset, it was evident that the farmers’ own vet needed to be at the heart of delivery and veterinary input has been immense in guiding us up the first steps of the Pathway.

The programme is set to start in Spring 2022 with a vet visit. This will be paid for by the government. They will undertake a health and welfare review of the farm, including diagnostic testing, to set the foundations for the journey along the Pathway. The initial focus will be on improving disease prevention and controlling or eradicating an industry agreed list of diseases in each species.

Having completed this first step, farmers will continue along the Pathway supported by Animal Health and Welfare grants which will be launched later in 2022 (more on these in October).

A payment by results programme is also in the planning stages, which will reward farmers for achieving higher welfare outcomes by supporting the ongoing costs involved in delivery.

The ambition is that over time everyone, including your neighbours and small scale producers, will be engaged, thereby reducing the risk of re-infection to those who have forged ahead with the programme. We’ll have to remain flexible as we progress to long term delivery, as lessons are learned and implemented.

Why does this matter?

We know that disease and conditions such as lameness mean that farmers lose money every single day. We know they would like to do something about it, but don’t or can’t because of the risk of reinfection of disease. The difference with this programme is that everyone will be working together towards the same goal.

Who is this for?

This is for all livestock farmers. At the heart of the Pathway is the principle of the farmers’ own vet working with them on an individual farm basis whether you are farm assured or not, and there will be a format that covers the health and welfare needs of your farm.

There are big wins here for the public purse, too. A higher health national flock or herd will have a reduced need for veterinary medicines, reduce the effect on the environment and underpin our international reputation for good health and welfare, bolstering our export opportunities.

We also know that the British public value good welfare, so it makes sense to support farmers in reaching a higher standard.

I don’t underestimate the challenges behind the delivery of this vision, so thank you for reading this and we’ll keep you up to date with progress. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to the Future Farming blog.

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  1. Comment by Katharine Pinfold posted on

    I support the underlying principle of this approach and like most farmers we take the health and welfare of our livestock very seriously.

    However don't you think the message of this scheme is rather ironic and risks being undermined by the actions of the government in agreeing trade deals with countries who do not have the same standards or ambitions? We need to be able to sell our products at the right value in our home markets without having to compete with lower cost imports.

    • Replies to Katharine Pinfold>

      Comment by Dana Wilson posted on

      Thanks for your support, Katherine, and for taking the time to respond. The UK Government has made a clear commitment that in all trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. Therefore, all agri-food products imported into the UK under existing or future free trade agreements will have to comply with our import requirements. We do appreciate that there is a concern about the impact of tariff liberalisation on UK farmers. Tariff liberalisation by the UK will be phased in over several years – in the case of beef and lamb, over a decade with a further five years of safeguards. This is intended to allow farmers time to adjust to new market conditions and the UK’s replacement to the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The Animal Health and Welfare (AHW) Pathway therefore, will increase standards, without compromising on profits. We hope this helps answer your question and please do get in touch if you would like to know more. The AHW Pathway Team


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