UK establishes group to tackle ruminant endemic diseases

A new cattle and sheep industry group is set to be established in the UK, according to a statement from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The group will be established in an effort to “speed up progress against endemic diseases and reputational challenges which are costing the UK cattle and sheep sectors at least £500 million per year”.

According to the AHDB, an industry consultation on creating the new group had “a strong majority supporting the move in principle”, with many believing it will accelerate work to control conditions like liver fluke, mastitis and lameness.

As a result, the new Ruminant Health and Welfare Group (RHWG) will be formed on April 1.

The consultation was facilitated – on behalf of the ruminant industry – by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and the Livestock and Meat Commission (Northern Ireland).

Rebecca Geraghty, AHDB chief technical officer, said: “The case for change is compelling. Despite a number of worthwhile initiatives and significant progress in some areas to date, endemic diseases in ruminants continue to have a major impact on our industry’s performance and profitability.

We are in unprecedented times. Due to Brexit and potential changes to both our operating environment and consumer preferences, we face challenges and opportunities which can be better managed by a robust ruminant industry with world-leading health and welfare.

“In terms of export of meat and dairy, there has been a broad recognition that having a high national animal health and welfare status would enable the UK to access more markets.

“We are excited at facilitating and supporting the formation of this new umbrella group and look forward to it making a real difference in ruminant health and welfare to the benefit of everyone involved in livestock farming.”

Technical and scientific expertise will be central to the group’s work and will be sought for individual projects as appropriate.

AHDB will provide beef, sheep and dairy levy-funding for RHWG to cover the cost of the chair and secretariat.

This will predominantly come from the existing AHDB funding for the Cattle Health and Welfare Group (CHAWG) and Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG), in England.

There will be a transition period from 1 April 2020 for these committees to work alongside the RHWG and agree which workstreams will be transferred and which will close.

The recruitment process to find a chair for RHWG started today. The closing date for applications is Thursday, February 20. Application details can be found on the AHDB careers portal.