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Animal Welfare - Recent Reports and Comments

Animal Welfare vol 24 issue 1 Volume 30 
Issue 3
August 2021




Ruminant health and welfare survey

Ruminant Health and Welfare (RH&W) is an independent, industry-based body, set-up in 2020 to tackle disease in cattle, sheep and goats in the UK. The aims of RH&W are to:

i) Prevent, manage or eradicate those endemic diseases with the greatest effect on health, welfare and productivity;

ii) Identify opportunities for farm-level interventions that support our ambition of being among world leaders in animal welfare;

(iii) Address inherent issues in current and future farming systems that could lead to health and welfare or reputational challenges; and

(iv) Champion high health and welfare standards, and priorities relating to domestic or overseas markets for the four nations.

RH&W functions as a committee within the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB, England) but, recognising that disease does not have geographical boundaries, also works collaboratively with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and Northern Ireland’s Livestock and Meat Commission.

One of the first tasks of RH&W was to conduct a ‘grassroots’ survey with the aim of “establishing the disease, health and welfare priorities of those who work with cattle and sheep on a daily basis.” Six hundred and sixty-two responses were received from farmers and professionals working with cattle (73% beef, 27% dairy), and hill, upland and lowland sheep (17, 28 and 55%, respectively).

As well as considering diseases, respondents were also asked to respond on ‘syndromes’ - defined in the survey as “broader conditions caused by a range of potential factors and commonly associated with particular stages in the production cycle.”

Opening the Report, Nigel Miller (RH&W chairman) notes that “Clearly disease is often the visible component of a syndrome with nutrition, environmental factors and genetics also involved at times. Moving health management to a whole system approach can open the door to more significant progress.”

The top diseases and syndromes impacting ruminant production and welfare in the UK were found to be:

Sheep:   Cattle:  
Disease Syndromes Disease Syndromes
  • Footrot
  • Contagious Ovine Digital Dermatitis
  • Sheep scab
  • Liver fluke
  • Fly strike
  • Parasitic gastroenteritis
  • Neonatal lamb disease or mortality
  • Reproductive failure
  • Anthelmintic resistance
  • Joint ill
  • Mastitis
  • Digital dermatitis
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhoea
  • Johne’s disease
  • Liver fluke
  • Viral pneumonia (PI-3, RSV)
  • Lameness
  • Reproductive failure
  • Neonatal or calf disease
  • Mastitis (sub-clinical and acute)
  • Bovine respiratory disease


RH&W plan to host at least one workshop during Summer 2021 at which farmers, vets, researchers and industry organisations/stakeholders will be able to discuss the survey results. It is hoped that participants will be able to identify “…how the four nations can work together to deliver a new operating environment to deliver fresh and tangible progress against these (disease/syndrome) priorities. A range of possible interventions will be identified based on relevance, cost and likelihood of adoption.”

Ruminant Health and Welfare: Cattle and Sheep Health and Welfare Priorities – A ‘Grassroots’ Survey across the Four Nations of the UK (May 2021). A4, 35 pages. Survey carried out by Ruminant Health and Welfare (RH&W). Analysis and report generated by Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) with additional commentary from RH&W. Available online at: www.ruminanthw.org.uk.

E Carter,


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