Vets: how to carry out an annual health and welfare review of livestock

Check what to do, including endemic disease and condition testing and areas to discuss at the review

The annual health and welfare review is for a farmer to ask a vet or team chosen by a vet to help them:

  • reduce endemic diseases and conditions
  • increase animal productivity
  • improve animal welfare

The review is not an inspection or audit and it is optional.

A farmer is eligible for a funded annual health and welfare review of livestock if they keep one of the following:

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

Arrange a review

The farmer will contact you to arrange a review and give you their agreement number. You'll need this agreement number to include in the review summary the farmer will ask you for after you’ve done the review.

The farmer can have one review every 10 months for one type of livestock.

There’s no set amount of time for a review, but it’s likely to take between 2 to 3 hours of your time and the farmer’s time. The farmer can agree with you that the review is spread over several regular visits to the farm or done in a single visit.

The farmer will ask you to:

  • carry out endemic disease or condition testing of the livestock type being reviewed
  • advise on the health and welfare of the livestock – including issues such as lameness, body conditioning or mobility scoring

The farmer may also ask you to discuss one or both of the following:

  • biosecurity
  • medicine usage

You and the farmer can choose to discuss either biosecurity or medicine or both. The review is flexible, so you can focus on what is important for the farm.

The farmer will agree with you:

  • when you’ll carry out the review – the farmer must make sure it is completed and they’ve claimed within 6 months of their agreement start date
  • which optional topics you’ll focus on when you visit

After the review the farmer will ask you for a:

  • written report, including recommended follow-up actions and the relevant endemic disease or condition laboratory test results
  • review summary

Test for endemic diseases or conditions

Depending on the type of livestock you review, the farmer will ask you to test for:

  • bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) in beef cattle
  • bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) in dairy cattle
  • the effectiveness of worming treatments in sheep
  • porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in pigs

The farmer will only be eligible for funding if the minimum required number of animals are tested. It is advised you get samples tested at one of the recommended laboratories for review testing.

Read the guidance on how to carry out disease and endemic condition testing to find more about testing including the minimum required numbers and recommended laboratories.

The farmer can use the review test results for other accreditation schemes they’re a member of.

They 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.

Give health and welfare advice

The farmer will ask you to advise on the general health and welfare of the livestock you’re reviewing. This may include topics such as lameness, body conditioning or mobility scoring.

Vets are advised to work with the farmer to improve the health and productivity of their animals. Discuss some easy wins and some more ambitious targets to improve the health and welfare of their livestock.

Review biosecurity

Depending on the farm, the farmer may ask you to review biosecurity measures and explain the benefits of good biosecurity and 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).

Review medicine usage

Depending on the farm, 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 treating and why the right diagnostics can save money

You can tell the farmer about the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Medicine Hub . You could explain how it can help them and encourage them to register if they haven’t already.

If you’re reviewing pigs, you could tell the farmer about the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Medicine book for pigs.

Give the farmer a written report

The farmer will ask you to give them a written report that includes:

  • endemic disease or condition test results from the laboratory
  • advice or suggested species-specific health and welfare actions
  • other review findings - for example, biosecurity recommendations and medicine usage
  • agreed achievable 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

This information about the review can be included in:

  • a specific written report for the review
  • an existing health and welfare document, clearly identifiable as review information

The farmer and vet will need to read over what was agreed each year to be able to monitor progress when the next review is carried out. The report will not be shared with Defra.

Give the farmer a review summary

The farmer will ask you for a signed and dated summary of the review. This is evidence that the review took place. They may be asked to supply this if the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) asks to see it. The summary and signature can be digital or paper.

You should include the following information in the review summary:

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

Funding the farmer will get

A farmer will get funding for each livestock type, not for each animal. They’ll get:

  • £522 for a beef cattle review
  • £372 for a dairy cattle review
  • £436 for a sheep review
  • £684 for a pig review

The funding amount for each livestock type is different because:

  • testing may take longer for some livestock types
  • some results cost more to analyse

This funding will cover the endemic disease or condition testing costs and will contribute towards the costs for:

  • the vet’s time
  • the farmer’s time