The Government is considering a system of cash payments to farmers to fund vets to do annual herd health reviews.
George Eustice, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, outlined some of the proposals that would come in under its Sustainable Farming Incentive, which is currently at a pilot stage.
In a policy paper released in March, Mr Eustice said the incentive scheme would “help farmers access the money and the advice they need to be effective and ambitious” and was open to any receiving payments under the existing Basic Payments Scheme, legacy subsidies under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
In one of his first face-to-face events, Mr Eustice spoke on 30 June to farmers at the Cereals 2021 show in Lincolnshire about the scheme, which is being piloted with several hundred farmers ahead of the first phase rolling out in 2022.
While most of his speech focused on crops and land management, he did give a nod to livestock farmers – and farm animal vets.
Mr Eustice said: “We want the Sustainable Farming Incentive to incentivise all sorts of things. There’s going to be four different soil health standards: one on arable and horticultural soil, one on improved grassland soil, a third on moorland and rough grazing, and a fourth and final one which is probably less relevant to those of you in the room, but it’s the beginning of our animal health and welfare pathway, where we are going to pay farmers to have a vet to do an annual review of their herd and come up with a management plan to try to manage down diseases and the overall health of their herd, thus promoting profitability as well.
“As we develop the Sustainable Farming Incentive in future years, we’re going to add additional modules. We’re going to enable farmers to increase their ambition within those standards, but also add additional ones.”
Ian Cure, farm director at VetPartners, said the proposals would allow more farm vets to demonstrate the benefits they can bring to the wider health of herds.
He said: “This is a positive and welcome announcement from Defra. Profitability goes hand in hand with improving health and welfare, and lots of farmers already engage with vets in this way to improve preventive health care and productivity.
“The fact we will now have support out there to enable a wider reach is excellent and hopefully allows vets to demonstrate to farmers they can offer real value to their business when they get involved on farm and engage with them proactively.”
He added: “This approach is rewarding for the farmers and the vets. It does not have to all be about paperwork and numbers. The visits are completely unique to the farmer. For some it is a walk around the farm while discussing different elements of their enterprise, whereas for others it focuses on data analysis and picking up trends.
“The more support we get to facilitate positive engagement with farmers in a proactive health planning way, the better it is for farmers, animals and vets.”
Credit to: Government considers farmer payments to fund annual vet herd health reviews (Vet Times)
Vet Times. (2021). Government considers farmer payments to fund annual vet herd health reviews [online]