Livestock disease control: a way ahead - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Livestock disease control: a way ahead

BVA congress delegates were given
a glimpse into the future of
livestock disease control in the UK
in the session on responsibility and
cost sharing.

Rosemary Radcliffe, the City
economist chairing the government
advisory committee due to report in
December, discussed possible new
arrangements for improving the
effectiveness and value for money of
animal disease control policy and
delivery.

Her group is proposing a new
model for developing a strategy
involving a partnership between the
industry and government. Policy would
be set by a board of around 12
members comprising experts from the
various industry sectors and main
stakeholder groups, including the
veterinary profession, together with
key DEFRA officials.

It was important that the proposed
body has an independent chairperson
and a membership with the expertise
to provide appropriate representation
for the main industry sectors. This was
necessary if DEFRA is to regain the
trust of the livestock industry, she said.

For its part, the industry must learn
to adopt a more collaborative and less
competitive approach to dealing with
the shared challenges of animal
disease. The cattle and sheep sectors
would do well to learn from the
experience of the equine industry
which, until recently, was equally
splintered and incapable of reaching a
common position.

But now the various equine bodies
have come together and are able to
offer a single viewpoint, representing
all elements of the horse world “from
Jemima’s pony to the winner of the
Grand National”, she noted.

Devonshire vet Dick Sibley was a member of the England
Implementation Group charged with
implementing the Animal Health and
Welfare Strategy [sic] but disbanded by
the last government. His ideas on the
structure of the new system tallied
closely with those of Ms Radcliffe’s
group.

He said the new structure could
free the livestock sector from the
worst effects of political interference
in animal disease issues. Currently,
there were realistic prospects of
achieving progress on issues that have
been subject to endless debate but very
little action – the new government
appears receptive to new ideas and the
industry has accepted the need for
change.

Mr Sibley felt that the new system
also offered an opportunity to address
a serious problem for the livestock
sector. He said the benefits of
efficiency savings in agriculture were
often seized by organisations further
down the food production chain – “in
the dairy industry producers have
achieved a 15% improvement in
efficiency over the past 10 years and
yet they are no better off”.

Shrinking budget

Ms Radcliffe explained that while the
major supermarkets would have the
same opportunities as any other
stakeholders to provide an input into
the new structure, there would not be
a place on the board for the retail
sector.

Facing a shrinking budget and the
need to concentrate on its key
responsibilities, the extent of DEFRA’s
involvement in the new organisation
would also come under the spotlight.
However, she said, “The state will
always have a role to play because it
must retain the main responsibility for dealing with the
catastrophic
effects of animal
disease.”

  • Farm
    practitioners in
    Scotland will play
    a key role in
    implementing the
    devolved
    government’s
    plans for
    eradicating bovine
    virus diarrhoea
    from all herds
    north of the
    border, the
    Scottish chief
    veterinary officer,
    Simon Hall,
    explained to the
    meeting.

The initiative had been announced a few days earlier
by the Scottish cabinet secretary for
rural affairs, Richard Lochhead, who
said that £400,000 would be made
available to support a testing
programme that would form the first
phase of a three-stage process.

That will be followed by annual
tests from September 2011 to identify
persistently infected animals, which
must then be slaughtered or kept in
secure accommodation. Finally,
movement restrictions would be
introduced on any herds that failed to
effectively tackle the BVD problem.

There are an estimated 2,000 to
4,000 persistently infected cattle in the
Scottish national herd and the effects
of eradicating the disease could
generate up to £80 million in extra
income for the industry.

“The farmer’s own vet will be the main provider of surveillance on
behalf of the client and in delivering
advice tailored to the circumstances of
each herd. I hope vets across Scotland
will rise to this challenge and that they
can establish principles that can be
applied more widely,” Mr Hall said.

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