Duchy College’s Rural Business School (RBS) project looked into several key health issues in livestock including Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), Johne’s disease, dairy and sheep lameness, mastitis, respiratory diseases and sheep parasites. The work involved liaising with research organisations at the forefront of work with these diseases, both at home and overseas e.g. Royal Veterinary College for BVD, Bristol University with lameness and Danish expertise in successful control and prevention of Johne’s disease. This enabled the roll-out of pilot programmes across the south west for each disease ‘strand’, including briefing of veterinary practitioners and other specialists. In addition, the project worked closely with milk and meat processors to reinforce messages to producers.
The project also ran some 23 ‘focus farms’ across the south west to demonstrate the physical and financial benefits of sheep and beef farmers working together with their vets in herd/flock health planning. Each farm tackled a particular topic e.g. lameness. Other livestock producers were invited to on–farm meetings to follow progress on each farm; typically improvements of 20% gains in income were seen across the focus farms with practices then being taken up more widely following the on-farm events. Positive action on lameness reduced levels from the national average of 10% to 2%.
The efficacy of the RBS approach to effectively delivering high impact animal health training programmes with demonstrable benefits was shown by a large scale statistical survey among farmers carried out in June 2012. The survey was a core part of Defra’s review of how advice and incentives are used for farmers and land managers and was carried out by Quadrant Consultants and BMG Research. The purpose was to gather farmer feedback on the 80 plus advice and incentive schemes that already exist and how they could be improved.
Following this success, Healthy Livestock has been rolled out nationally by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) for Defra, with Duchy College’s RBS sub-contracted to deliver in the south west; furthermore it provided the model for both the proposed national scheme to eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea and the recently announced national Johne’s Disease Management Project, representing two of the costliest diseases to UK beef and dairy producers. The lameness ‘strand’ which produced 20% reduction in dairy cattle lameness has also been adopted by DairyCo as their ‘Healthy Feet’ programme to improve lameness.