Survey launched to tackle health and disease challenges across the ruminant sectors

The newly formed UK wide group Ruminant Health and Welfare (RH&W) has launched a survey to identify disease priorities across the ruminant sectors and inform efforts to tackle health challenges eroding performance and welfare on farms.

RH&W has been formed from industry and government organisations across all four nations of the UK. It aims to co-ordinate activities and lift cattle and sheep health and welfare to a higher level through partnerships, enabling best practice and identifying a common approach to tackling endemic diseases.

“This is very much a grassroots survey,” said Nigel Miller, chairman of RH&W.

We would like to balance current evidence with a better understanding of the views of farmers, shepherds, herd managers and farm vets – those who work closely with sheep and cattle on a daily basis.

“Through this we will be able to get a grip on what the greatest concerns are over industry-wide diseases and welfare impacts, while also identifying specific regional or sectoral disease issues in sheep and cattle,” he adds.

“Endemic diseases in ruminants do not respect country borders and are a significant concern to farmers, the wider industry, governments and consumers due to their impact on animal health, welfare and food production.”

Mapping of risk factors

The survey will enable mapping of risk factors which will feed into RH&W’s future priorities and activities, as well as research programmes. Gwyn Jones, vice chairman of RH&W, said:

“Participants in the survey will be asked to review a range of diseases and conditions, based on their impact on productivity and contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

We want to know what you believe are the most important challenges and any others which should be included. Bovine TB obviously presents overwhelming pressure on many producers but we are seeking views on other diseases which reduce production efficiency in the sheep and cattle sectors.

Disease and reputational challenges cost the UK cattle and sheep sectors at least £500 million a year. RH&W was established to co-ordinate and focus the UK’s farming industry on eradicating and controlling damaging cattle and sheep diseases.

It will work with industry and governments to influence collective action and secure the policy framework and funding required to prevent, manage or control disease and welfare challenges across the ruminant sectors.