Government schemes and farmer priorities for sheep flock health

Disease doesn’t care about borders. Thus, it is incumbent on the whole industry to take a strict stance on safeguarding flock health. Charles Sercombe, sheep breeder and National Sheep Association (NSA) trustee said that health is critical. Without it, the sheep sector can’t improve profitability or productivity whilst enhancing its environmental footprint. Government approaches to animal health as part of their future farming policies exist. We are going to go over some here, as well as responses to them.

The schemes

First is the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway (England). It supplies funding of as much as £436 for a flock health vet visit. Included is a written health plan, a biosecurity review, and a medicine use review. Moreover, it is bespoke to every flock, including testing for wormer efficacy.

Next, there is Preparing for Sustainable Farming, Animal Healthcare and Welfare Interventions (Scotland). It launched in 2023 and will run until the end of 2024. There is funding of up to £1,250 over these two years. There will be £250/action, including £250 in year one for CPD. The focus is on the investigation of lowering lameness and roundworms. It is the same for liver fluke, iceberg diseases, and sheep scab.

The final one is Sustainable Farming Scheme, Animal Health and Welfare Actions (Wales). It is expected to launch in April 2025. This will be part of the Sustainable Farming Scheme. Focus will be on enhancing farm biosecurity via safer sourcing of stock, secure boundaries, and wash stations. Also, it will work to minimise the use of antibiotics by working alongside farm vets to enhance flock health. Another area of focus is mobility and body condition scoring to augment animal welfare.

Farmer views

Now, let’s look at some farmer and consultant views on these schemes. On the farmer’s side, we have Lorraine Luescher, Langholm, Scottish Borders. She is working hard to increase awareness of the contagious lung tumour ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (OPA) because it can have massive issues for farmers. She discovered the disease in a bought-in ram. With a flock of 3,000 Blackfaces and Country Cheviots on her upland farm, just one outbreak could be ruinous for flock health.

Lorraine has spent five years scanning her Blackface flock at a cost of £1,400/year to locate the disease. In tandem with culling positive animals, this has minimised disease prevalence to 2% from 6%. She is with a government-backed working group meant to deliver change. The key thing here is she wants other farmers not to bury their heads in the sand. Lorraine said breeders of high-value tups remain in denial about flock diseases. They think their genetics are so valuable they are unable to bring themselves to scan and cull.

Consultant views

On the consultant side, there is Fiona Lovatt, a sheep vet from Flock Health. She said that vaccinations aren’t cheap, but they are not as costly as disease. Her preference was for farmers to partner with their vet to test and establish their animal health status. They will then use vaccination and quarantine as utensils for flock protection. Having a flock hierarchy by keeping ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ flocks can help with disease management.

Then there is Janet Roden, a sheep geneticist from Innovis. She encouraged farmers to buy on arithmetic rather than optimism. When people invest in stocks and shares, they look at the numbers. Farmers should do the same with breeding stock. This is because it is an investment for the future and adds up similarly to compound interest. Janet wants us to ask breeders about their system, flock health status, and to employ performance data like EVBs.

Start using the right products to improve animal health

At JS Hubbuck Ltd, we have products available to help you manage your work with animals. Every farmer knows how vital their job is. With our aid, they will be able to meet their needs more easily.

So, if you would like to do business with us for animal health products, feel free to get in touch. We can advise you about all of the items we have in stock to ensure you use them properly.