February 2024 Newsletter

Welcome to Ruminant Health & Welfare

Welcome to the first RH&W newsletter of 2024
Our important work continues with our focus now on developing a beef welfare strategy with the working group as well as progressing the welfare goals identified in the dairy and sheep strategies through 2024.

As mentioned in my last newsletter, the strength of collaboration across the industry has been phenomenal and is much needed with the difficult challenge facing the ruminant sector in BTV-3, the latest strain of bluetongue.

Thank you to everyone who supported the Norfolk farmers bluetongue meeting on 15 January and has been helping to promote the AHDB technical webinars looking at BTV as well as Schmallenberg so far.
Access to sign up to the next technical bluetongue meeting, recordings from past webinars and FAQ’s from all the events held so far, are all accessible on our RH&W bluetongue hub.

I visited DairyTech on the 7th of February. It was very well attended and it’s an excellent event to meet many people from the dairy industry and hold a few short face to face meetings. I spoke at the ‘Dairy Hub’, where I outlined government plans on the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) eradication scheme which will be launched later this year. It is three-year voluntary scheme where farmers will receive payment for blood testing and if the disease is found to be present, a PI hunt in the herd.

Farmers will be eligible for both monitoring or disease eradication, if found, for the three years and then legislation will arrive which will ensure that all farmers in England (as they do in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) will need to carry out the same without payment.

I would encourage all farmers, beef and dairy to register on the Defra Pathway programme and also then register on the BVD eradication scheme and take full advantage of the money on offer in the next three years.

As ever, if you would like to join the working group or support the strategies, or have feedback for the group, please email

Gwyn Jones

BTV-3 update: Seasonally vector low period announced for bluetongue

As you will have seen, Defra has announced that we are now in a seasonally vector low period when midge activity is much lower, leading to some changes to disease control measures for BTV-3.

Because of the reduced risk of transmission between midges and animals at this point, Defra has taken the decision not to cull infected animals where test results indicate older infection and the presence of BTV-3 antibodies.

Infected animals may still be restricted at their current locations and other disease mitigation measures taken as appropriate.

The reduced risk from midges means that some restrictions on movements of live animals from the Temporary Control Zones (TCZ) can now be eased if they meet certain conditions, including testing negative in a pre-movement test. A licence is required.

Some restrictions on movements of animals into and within the TCZ have also been eased.  Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, announced on the weekend that the TCZs are likely to be eased further in the near future. This means that information on movements and testing of animals will be likely to change.  Sign up for APHA alerts here.

For the latest update on BTV-3 and restrictions please visit our bluetongue hub for up to date information and signposts to all of Defra and APHA’s latest updates;

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.


New and old ways to reduce farm emissions

Tim Geraghty, Veterinary Centre Manager at SRUC explained at the recent BCBC how existing cattle tracing data could be used to identify ‘wasted days’.
He explained that monetary values and carbon emissions could then be calculated for this waste, against an optimal model.

A pilot study of cattle movement database in England and Scotland from 2015 to 2020 revealed there were 550m ‘waste days’ costing £860m and producing 3.1m t/CO2.

This was largely caused by poor growth and fertility and early death. Improving these three areas would be the most cost-effective carbon reduction strategy, he added.

Read more from the conference:
How genetics, data and technology can help reduce farm emissions (

Tim originally presented his finding to the RH&W steering group which posed some very interesting discussion following the Acting on Methane report and work the group has done in this area.  

Update from Control Of Worms Sustainably (COWS)

Liver fluke experts from COWS and SCOPS met recently and agreed that as had been predicted, the unusual weather patterns of 2023 have impacted the level and timing of the risk of liver fluke disease across the UK significantly.

Read more about the findings here:
 Later than normal challenge from liver fluke this January – COWS – Promoting Sustainable Control of Cattle Parasites   


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.

Importance of exploring all abortions

As we approach spring calving, an important topic of discussion within the Ruminant Health & Welfare steering group has been investigating abortions and ‘black box thinking’ – creating a culture and systems where farmers and vets explore all abortions to learn from them.

Abortion investigation can help farms identify diseases or issues facing the herd, or not as a route to improve cattle health and productivity.

The importance of investigating abortions in cattle (
Information for vets: sub-handbook.pdf (

2024 lambing survey now live

The latest edition of this annual survey from University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Science and Medicine is now open.

The information gained from the survey helps understand the impact of the virus and the scale of the outbreak this year of both Schmallenberg virus and BTV3 virus to add to their knowledge of the cyclical pattern of Schmallenberg virus.

Read more and take part: 2024 UK lambing survey (

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.