The second Cattle Health and Welfare Group (CHAWG) report to examine the state of GB’s cattle health and welfare, published this week, high lights
the need to prioritise health and welfare issues, set defined targets and collaborate across the nations in achieving measurable results.
The Chairman of CHAWG, Tim Brigstocke, says this 2014 report reveals both the progress made in the past few years in addressing some key issues, but also the scale of challenges facing the industry from changing weather and economic patterns.
“There is some definite and tangible progress in efforts to tackle lameness, mastitis, Johne’s Disease, BVD and mortality, and the implementation of welfare outcomes within Red Tractor are to be very much welcomed,” he says.
“But we are also facing evolving challenges, such as a surge in liver fluke following recent extreme weather and novel diseases such as a new strain of BVD. The rise in imported animals – especially replacement dairy heifers – is another risk, unless we can implement more stringent measures to minimise the importation of disease along with these animals.”
Overall, he says the industry needs to prioritise its key issues, set quantifiable targets and develop closer relationships between Scottish, English and Welsh authorities to share best practice and data, as disease does not respect geographical boundaries.
“For the past 18 months we’ve been talking about the concept of an umbrella GB ‘organisation’ to provide industry alignment, coordination and progress evaluation,” he explains. “This would ensure that decisions were based on the best available intelligence and maximise the potential to improve cattle health and welfare performance.
“The industry also needs performance statistics upon which to base informed decisions on health and welfare needs. Those funding or even implementing health and welfare-related initiatives should be setting these quantifiable targets to identify whether the approach was successful against its original objectives.”
The three Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) in GB have welcomed the report, with Nigel Gibbens, CVO for the UK, commenting particularly on the report’s coverage of the issue of antimicrobial resistance.
He says: “It is pointless to debate the relative importance of animal and human use of antimicrobials in driving resistance in human pathogens; we need to conserve antimicrobials for the future for use in animals as well as humans.
“We cannot support husbandry practices that rely on routine antibiotic use, and when antimicrobials are needed for treatment they must be used effectively. If we don’t act, the initiative will be taken out of our hands, so I am pleased that CHAWG is fully engaged with the Responsible Use of Medicines Alliance (RUMA) on the five year strategy to tackle this issue.”
The CVOs for Wales and Scotland, Christianne Glossop and Sheila Voas respectively, both highlight the role the report will play in providing an evidence base towards the development of new health and welfare frameworks in both countries.
Ms Glossop says: “To operate effectively within the new framework, we will require a sound evidence base, drawing data from a wide range of reliable sources. CHAWG is uniquely placed to provide insight into the challenges facing our cattle industry, with representation from all relevant specialist groups and organisations.”
Sheila Voas adds: “A new strategy for Scotland is being prepared in consultation with stakeholders. The strategy will build on the progress that has been made by identifying steps that can be taken by government and industry to enhance animal health, tackle endemic diseases and improve welfare as well as to prepare to meet emerging threats.
“CHAWG can help us achieve our objectives by using the collective knowledge of a wide range of organisations to focus and prioritise our efforts on the most important cattle health and welfare problems.”