Further appointees to new ruminant health and welfare group

The UK-wide cattle and sheep industry group was created to speed up progress against endemic diseases
The UK-wide cattle and sheep industry group was created to speed up progress against endemic diseases

Two further leadership appointments have been made to the newly-formed UK-wide Ruminant Health and Welfare Group (RHWG).

Caroline Slay is now in the role of secretary general, and Gwyn Jones as the new vice chair.

They join Berwickshire farmer and qualified vet Nigel Miller, who was appointed chair on 1 June.

The double appointment signifies a strengthening of the leadership team and recognition of the urgency of challenges facing UK cattle and sheep sectors, said the recruitment panel.

Ms Slay, from Northamptonshire, has worked in the UK agricultural industry her whole career, mainly in marketing communications and knowledge exchange roles.

She also farms in partnership with her husband. She will be central to relationship-building both across the wide-ranging group of stakeholders, and across the UK.

Ms Slay said: “An important determinant of the group’s success is likely to be relationships – whether at national level between government animal health teams, or at farm level, for example in health planning between the farmer and vet.

“I’m planning to use my practical background and communications experience to help to build these enduring relationships around common goals, and to deliver further progress on the challenges the sectors face.”

Mr Jones, originally from Snowdonia, was a dairy farmer in West Sussex for over 30 years.

He now sits on Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Board for England as well as committees for a number of EU and UK farming and animal welfare organisations.

He said: “We face unprecedented challenges but also opportunities – building new markets and displacing imports in a post-pandemic world, while meeting a broad raft of welfare, productivity, sustainability and reputational challenges.

“I believe this approach working with private sector partners and engaging positively with both government and the supply-chain as a UK ruminant group can deliver huge benefits for all.

"I am therefore delighted to have been given this opportunity – ruminant health and welfare are passions of mine and as a Welshman, I am particularly keen to see the four nations in the UK benefit from much-needed collaboration.”

Mr Miller, speaking on behalf of the recruitment panel which also included the Chief Veterinary Officer for UK, the CEO of the National Sheep Association and the Chief Technical Officer for AHDB, said the focus had been on creating a leadership team with skills and abilities suited to the task ahead.

“The right team is critical if we are to pick up the reins from two very successful organisations in CHAWG and SHAWG, but also broaden our remit,” he said.

“Endemic diseases and reputational challenges cost the UK cattle and sheep sectors at least £500 million per year, and respect neither country borders nor political boundaries.

“The RHWG will work independently to bring the industry and governments together to work collaboratively to speed up the fight against endemic disease in ruminants."

Mr Miller said the aim over the next few months was to consult on the most pressing disease challenges and livestock health concerns faced by those working on the ground.

“We need to understand what farmers operating across the ruminant sectors are contending with, to not only get a sense of system priorities, but to also identify any particular regional issues,” he explained.

“The mapping of disease priorities will feed directly into the RHWG and will focus efforts on tackling the health challenges that erode performance and welfare across our cattle and sheep farms.”

RHWG will operate at two levels: within England to co-ordinate and focus an industry drive to lift ruminant health and welfare to a higher level; and across the UK, through partnership working, to share best practice and to identify where a common approach can safeguard progress on endemic disease.

The CVOs will continue to have involvement as ‘sounding boards’ though quarterly update meetings.