The cost of food, as well as its supply and future production, is very much at the centre of the challenges facing the UK today.
The restricted supply of energy and grain, high costs and inflation, driven largely by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, pose a serious threat to society.
And while livestock health may not seem like an immediate priority for the Government, Ruminant Health & Welfare believes reducing the impact of endemic diseases to have healthy livestock and positive welfare should be at the heart of future agricultural policy development.
Creating a proactive livestock health and welfare partnership between industry and government is now more important than ever.
Perhaps the first steps of that partnership have already been taken in the co-design of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway in England, but we must do more across all four nations.
Controlling endemic diseases, such as sheep scab and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), not only provides immediate production and welfare gains on farms, but also reduces the cost of production for farmers – both financially and in terms of carbon.
I know regulatory frameworks are often seen as a way of adding costs, rather than removing them. However, regulation can be a catalyst for positive change in livestock health.
Smart regulation can speed up progress on disease control, support responsible livestock trading, and reduce the recycling of disease into flocks or herds that have previously been disease-free.
This, in turn, paves the way for reduced emissions as was demonstrated in our report, ‘Acting on methane’. We know that reducing key endemic diseases in ruminants will play a vital role in contributing to the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Previously, government research funding has delivered progress in livestock disease management and control through the development of diagnostics and vaccines. However, we need to keep this momentum up, and more funding is required in future to improve farm animal health and welfare across all four nations.
There are significant opportunities to make major progress on ruminant health and welfare – to the benefit of both farmers and wider society.
We need government to work in partnership with us to capitalise on these opportunities.
Nigel Miller, chairman of Ruminant Health & Welfare.