How to carry out an annual health and welfare review of livestock

Vets: check what to do during and after a review including disease and condition testing, advice on increasing animal productivity and improving welfare.

From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Rural Payments Agency

Applies to England


  1. What the review is
  2. Who can take part
  3. Arrange a review
  4. What a farmer will ask you to do
  5. After the review: what the farmer will ask for

Before you visit a farm, print out this guidance on how to carry out a review, and the guidance on testing the species you’re reviewing:

What the review is

The annual health and welfare review of livestock is designed to help farmers:

  • test for endemic diseases or the effectiveness of medicines to treat worms in sheep
  • increase animal productivity
  • improve animal welfare

You may be asked by a farmer to carry out a review. It is not an inspection or audit and is optional.

Who can take part

A farmer is eligible for a funded review if they keep any of the following:

  • 11 or more beef or dairy cattle
  • 21 or more sheep
  • 51 or more pigs

A farmer can have one agreement for a review every 10 months for one eligible type of livestock.

Arrange a review

The farmer will contact you to arrange a review.

There’s no set amount of time for a review, but it’s likely to take between 2 and 3 hours of your time and the farmer’s time.

The farmer can agree with you to spread the review over several regular visits to the farm or do it in a single visit.

They’ll give you their agreement number. You will need to include it in the review summary they will ask you for it after you have done the review. You must give the summary sheet to the farmer, as they cannot claim without it. You must carry out testing after the farmer’s agreement start date and before they claim, or the farmer will not be eligible for payment.

The farmer must make sure the review is completed and they claim their funding within 6 months from the date they accepted their agreement offer.

What a farmer will ask you to do

To receive funding, a farmer will ask you to visit their farm and:

  1. test their livestock to the recommended standards listed in the table below
  2. advise on the health and welfare of the livestock you’re reviewing

You and the farmer may also choose to discuss biosecurity, medicine usage or both if it’s useful. This is optional.

The review is flexible, so you can focus on what’s important for the farm.

Required testing

Depending on the species, the farmer will ask you to carry out the following testing:

Species Test type Minimum number of animals to test
Beef cattle Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) blood (serum antibody test) 5 unvaccinated cattle aged 9 to 18 months per management group in up to 2 groups
Dairy cattle Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) bulk milk test. The farmer can take the bulk milk sample without the vet, if confident in doing so. A representative milk sample from the bulk tank
Sheep Worming treatment check Minimum of 10 lambs less than 12 months old
Pigs Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test Minimum of 30 pigs

To find out more about testing and specifications a laboratory needs to meet, read the guidance:

You should carry out testing after the farmer’s agreement start date and before they claim. The farmer’s claim will be rejected if they use results from tests completed outside this timeframe.

The farmer cannot use other accreditation scheme test results for this review funding or ask you to test for other medical conditions or diseases as part of the review.

They can use the review test results for other accreditation schemes they’re a member of. They should also check with the accreditation scheme that they’ll accept testing from the review.

Advise on the health and welfare of the livestock

The farmer will ask you to advise on the health and welfare of the livestock you’re reviewing. Examples may include reviewing biosecurity and medicine usage and discussing any disease concerns the famer has.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advises you to work with the farmer to improve the health and productivity of the animals. You could discuss easy wins and more ambitious targets to improve health and welfare.

Review biosecurity (optional)

The farmer may ask you to review biosecurity measures, explain the benefits of good biosecurity and give recommendations for improving it.

For external biosecurity, this could include:

  • purchasing policies
  • farm visitors and vehicles
  • wildlife
  • interaction with other farm animals
  • quarantine plans

For internal biosecurity, this could include:

  • feed stores
  • contaminated water
  • sheds
  • isolation of sick stock
  • movement control
  • training farm workers

You could direct the farmer to some of the species-specific biosecurity resources on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) (opens in new tab).

Biosecurity assessment and advice will be a required component of the endemics programmes when they become available in 2024. The farmer may prefer to do a complete biosecurity assessment as part of their enrolment in those schemes, You may want to consider this when doing your review visit on the farm.

Review medicine usage (optional)

The farmer may ask you to review farm medicines, including how to prescribe and use them.

You could discuss:

  • recommendations about medicines used on the farm, including antibiotics and vaccinations
  • preventative medicines, including how and when they should be used, as well as information on how to store them
  • the value of testing over treatment and why the right diagnostics can save money

You can tell the farmer about the AHDB Medicine Hub (opens in new tab). You could explain how it can help them and encourage them to register if they have not already.

If you’re reviewing pigs, you could tell the farmer about the AHDB Medicine book for pigs (opens in new tab).

After the review

When you have completed the review, the farmer will ask you to give them:

  • a written report
  • evidence the review took place

Written report

The report should be a specific report for the review.

The farmer will ask you to read over with them what was agreed each year, so you can both monitor progress until the next review takes place.

Your report should include:

  • endemic disease or condition test results from the laboratory
  • advice or suggested species-specific health and welfare actions
  • agreed follow-up actions to address issues raised by the review or testing - likely to be 2 to 3 but can be more or less based on individual needs
  • other review findings - for example, biosecurity recommendations and medicine usage

Defra will not ask to see the report.

Evidence the review took place

The RPA may ask the farmer to supply evidence that the review took place when they claim.

The farmer will ask you for a summary of the review they can use as evidence. They’ll request you provide it as a separate document and that you include your signature and date. You can provide the summary and signature digitally or on paper.

Your summary must include:

  • the agreement number
  • the business name and SBI number where the review took place
  • the date of the vet’s last visit to the farm for the review
  • the type of livestock reviewed
  • confirmation that the minimum number of animals being reviewed were on the farm when you did the review
  • confirmation that you carried out testing in accordance with the review’s disease and endemic conditions testing guidance
  • the date you completed disease and endemic condition testing
  • the number of beef cattle, sheep or pigs tested
  • the unique reference number for laboratory test results
  • your name and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) number
  • confirmation you have given the farmer a written report

The farmer will also ask you to include a vet attestation number (VAN) on the summary.

You do not need to complete the vet declaration form. You only need to create a reference number. The number must follow the agreed format:

[RCVS number][CPH number][valid to mm/yy] as an example:

1234567 - 12/345/6789 - 0124.