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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

The next steps for the SFI annual health and welfare review

Farmer and vet look in on piglets

The SFI annual health and welfare review is a fully funded vet visit which farmers can receive each year.

Together with co-design colleagues, I recently blogged about the co-design process behind the vet visits

With the help of volunteer farmers and vets, we started testing the review in September. 

In this post, I’ll share what we learned from the testing. I’ll also share our plans to launch the scheme in January 2023. 

Review recap 

The SFI annual health and welfare review is the first step of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. 

Through the review, farmers who keep cattle, sheep and pigs can get funding to pay for a yearly vet visit. 

During the review, a vet of the farmer's choice, will carry out diagnostic testing and provide bespoke advice to improve the health and welfare of their animals.

The review is designed to:

  • reduce endemic diseases such as bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle, porcine reproductive and respiratory disease (PRRS) in pigs and increase the effectiveness of worming treatments for sheep
  • improve the welfare of animals
  • increase productivity
  • make sure the use of veterinary medicines and vaccines is appropriate
  • be primarily for the farmer, and not used for inspections or compliance.

Vets will also signpost farmers to other financial support to improve the health and welfare of their animals. 

GOV.UK is the best place to find out more details on:

Testing the experience 

In July this year, we asked farmers and vets to help us understand what the experience of participating in a review was like in practice. As with all our schemes, we want to make sure that our ideas work on farms and genuinely support farmers.

In September, they began to test the application process.

They told us that a simple but tailored approach for each farm is the best way to help busy vets and farmers to make the yearly vet visit a part of their routine.

Ed and his vet looking at one of his pigs as part of the Review
Edward and his vet looking at one of his pigs as part of the review.

One of our testers was Edward. Edward is a tenant farmer on 800 acres of land in the south-east, where he keeps a mix of cattle, sheep and pigs.

While running a busy business supplying directly to farm shops, he is committed to maintaining a high standard of health and welfare on his farm.

However, in a challenging environment for farm business, sometimes farmers have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their money.

Edward keeps a small herd of pigs. Compared to other parts of his business it can be a struggle to make them profitable. That makes it hard to prioritise spending on his animals, which is a source of real frustration. 

By applying for the SFI annual health and welfare review, he was able to access £684 to fund a vet visit to review the health and welfare of his pigs.

Edward chose his regular vet for the review. They spent a couple of hours walking around the farm, observing the herd and discussing aspects of their health and welfare to prioritise.

Edward and his vet didn’t work to a tick-list because maintaining flexibility was identified as an important feature in the design of the visits.

They decided between themselves where to focus the discussion. They carried out sampling to test for the presence of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome in the herd. 

After the visit, Edward received a report that set out the health and welfare priorities to focus on with his pigs, and advice on the steps to take.

He told us: “I found this vet visit invaluable because it gave me an opportunity to write a health plan for the herds that aren’t as profitable for me”.

The review is an opportunity for eligible livestock farmers to access funding to overcome these kinds of barriers.

We asked the farmers who participated in our first round of testing if they would recommend the review to others. 83% said they would. This is a really encouraging start.

We'll continue to develop the reviews based on the experiences of farmers and vets. 

The vet perspective

Tom is a vet who works in Yorkshire. With a farmer, he carried out a review of a sheep flock.

He told us that by participating in a review, he’d been able to visit that particular farm for the first time.

By having that time to have an open conversation with the farmer, he learnt about their business and what they would like to achieve with the health and welfare of their animals.

He said would recommend the review to other vets, particularly as an opportunity to build these new relationships and start conversations with farmers in the local area.

Learn more

In this video, Stewart Houston CBE, gives an overview of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.

In this video, James Russell, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association and I explain what the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway is and what it will mean for vets in England.

Read the transcript.

Expansion in 2023 

We're preparing to open the review up to all eligible keepers in January 2023.

With the help of people like Edward and Tom, we’re learning what works well and we can improve. This means the service will continue to develop over time. 

We'll keep you updated on our progress, so subscribe to the Future Farming blog for updates.

If you have any questions about our approach, do comment below.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Peter Stoker posted on

    Any way that Datamars Livestock can become involved to promote this great initiative? We are committed to animal health.

    • Replies to Peter Stoker>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for getting in touch! Is it ok for me to pass on your email address (the one you used to leave a comment) to our engagement team?

      Best wishes,

  2. Comment by Peter Stoker posted on

    Certainly, thanks for following up

    • Replies to Peter Stoker>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Fantastic. I've just emailed you and my colleague Mark. Mark leads on our engagement work for the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.
      Best wishes,

  3. Comment by Richard Kelsey posted on

    its now February, nothing yet for a way to sign up to this ?


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