December Newsletter

Welcome to Ruminant Health & Welfare

2023 will go down as the year of collaboration with the launch of the RH&W Dairy Welfare and RH&W Sheep welfare strategies in June and November respectively, both with a 5-year vision to show progress in animal welfare, and both with nearly 100 supporting organisations collaborating towards this vision.

More recently, we have seen a new disease challenge in the UK with the confirmation of cases of the newest strain of bluetongue (BTV-3) in Kent and Norfolk.

We have yet again seen excellent collaboration, with the pooled knowledge and expertise we have across the RH&W steering group, and the wider industry, working together to form a bluetongue working group, taking prompt action.

Collaboration has been at the heart of the bluetongue industry response so far, and has been invaluable in signposting reliable and effective communications to ensure we are able to help farmers and the industry currently affected, and prepare for any likely future outbreaks.

This is evidenced in the number of media stories carried on this important disease, visits to the bluetongue hub on our website and huge numbers of signups to the Bluetongue webinars hosted just this week.

Our important work continues into 2024, focusing on developing a Beef welfare strategy with the working group, as well as collaborating with the dairy and sheep stakeholder groups to make progress on the welfare goals identified.

If you would like to get involved in the working group or support the strategies, please email

There remains a strong focus on tackling endemic disease, and this forms a key discussion point across our monthly steering group meetings.

I am delighted to be speaking at Dairy Tech and hope to see many of you who have supported us so far in person there.

As ever, please do get in touch with your thoughts or feedback via

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year,

Gwyn Jones

Bluetongue latest update

Further cases of BTV3 have been confirmed within the existing Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) in Kent, however there has been a positive development that a designation has been confirmed for the ABP Guildford abattoir.

This is the first abattoir outside the TCZ to be able to accept animals for slaughter from the TCZ. 

“Whether for welfare needs or to send to slaughter, if farmers need to move animals at all, we’d encourage them to apply now, even if you don’t know if a licence is available at this moment in time,” said Dr Joseph Henry BVMS Cert SHP MRCVS, chair of the Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) bluetongue working group and president of the Sheep Veterinary Society. 

Details regarding how to apply for a movement licence can be found on the following website: Bluetongue: apply for a specific movement licence – GOV.UK (

Farmers can access and call the dedicated bluetongue hotline to get advice or ask questions linked to the current situation – call the bluetongue hotline on 024 7771 0386.

In the UK, bluetongue, including BTV-3, is a notifiable disease, so anyone suspecting the disease must take action and report it to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Latest updates, further information and resources can be found here at the bluetongue hub.

Bluetongue advice for farmers

RH&W’s advice to farmers and their vets regarding bluetongue remains three-fold, farmers need to beware when buying animals in, take action to report any signs, and always, remain vigilant:

  • Buyer beware, source animals from Europe responsibly and request pre-movement testing.
  • Take action, prioritise biosecurity and report any suspicious clinical signs.
  • Vigilance is key, monitor livestock closely.

Farmers can access and call the dedicated bluetongue hotline to get advice or ask questions linked to the current situation – call the bluetongue hotline on 024 7771 0386.

Abortion Surveillance Planning

Following a presentation in our recent steering group meeting by Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) updating on the latest surveillance data linked to endemic diseases, it was identified there remains a need to focus on investigating all abortions to rule out a multitude of diseases.

As we move into key seasons for lambing and calving, it’s important to consider the power of surveillance, and the need to ensure there are no gaps.

It is imperative to explore unexplained abortions, the onus is on farmers and their vets to investigate all failed pregnancies and undertake testing.


Methane report reminder

The ‘Acting on methane’ report is a great source of information for having conversations about reducing emissions from ruminants. It outlines how the carbon intensity of production can be reduced which in turn reduces emissions.  Greatest impact is achieved by focussing on conditions which improve food conversion efficiency, growth rates and the involuntary or premature culling of breeding stock.

You can find the full report here.


New penalty for animal health and welfare offences

UK farmers should be aware of significant new legislation impacting animal health and welfare. Effective from 1 January 2024. This legislation introduces fixed penalty notices for various animal health and welfare offences, with penalties reaching up to £5,000.

Key offences covered by the new penalties include keeping animals in poor environments, repeated delays in bovine TB testing, non-compliance with avian influenza housing orders, and operating as an animal breeder without a licence.

While these penalties add to the range of enforcement measures like warning letters and movement restrictions, serious animal welfare offences will continue to face criminal prosecution.
The introduction of penalty notices is part of a broader effort to ensure animal keepers comply with the law and uphold high standards of animal care and bi

Now in force – vet attestation compliance for export

As of 13/12/2023 it’s essential for farmers who are not part of an assurance scheme to obtain a signed declaration from their vet to meet export requirements.

If farmers do not possess a VAN (Vet Attestation Number), it is crucial to take the necessary steps to acquire one through their vet.

Read more here.