Healthier animals mean better welfare and more sustainable farming – and a preventative health approach for UK livestock, supported through vaccination, will be an integral part of achieving this.

The National Office of Animal Health has outlined its 'new vision' for the livestock health industry, in the form of a Livestock Vaccination Guideline, providing support to vets, SQPs and farmers to prioritise prevention over cure.

Bringing together current veterinary clinical experience and research to demonstrate a 'proactive, best practice approach' to vaccination in the dairy, beef and sheep sectors, the guideline encourages discussion between vets and farmers to help them apply effective vaccination strategies on farm.

NOAH said that preventing and controlling disease on farm had never been more important, in the face of new agriculture policies, evolving disease challenges, new trading arrangements and the urgent need to meet environmental sustainability goals in response to climate change.

At the launch of the guideline, chief executive Dawn Howard, along with the authors of the guidance – Jonathan Statham, Fiona Lovatt and Joe Henry – discussed the importance of an effective livestock vaccination strategy, and how vaccines must be utilised to best advantage to keep both animals and humans healthy.

Ms Howard said: “Prevention of disease is at the heart of NOAH’s vision for animal health and welfare in UK farming and our Livestock Vaccination Guideline aims to ensure that those who make decisions about animal health and vaccination across the industry and on the farm have access to best practice guidance.

“We are focusing on priority diseases and those conditions where increased uptake of vaccination can make a real difference to the level of disease across animal populations.

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"This will not only help improve health and welfare on individual farms but also help raise health and welfare levels across the whole country, meaning UK farming will be better equipped to provide safe, high-quality and nutritious food, while also delivering the environmental benefits from healthier animals."

Mr Statham, chair of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, said: “Vaccination can have a major positive impact on animal health and welfare, One Health and sustainable farming, but how well is the true potential of vaccination really being harnessed and how can we improve our current approach? To answer this question requires a fresh and challenging review of current practice, which is what this guideline aims to achieve.”

Ms Lovatt, of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said: “The last couple of years have demonstrated the key importance of vaccination as a tool to ensure good human health. In a similar way, vaccination has a vital role to play in terms of ensuring good health, welfare, productivity and sustainability of our livestock herds and flocks.”

Mr Henry, also of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, added: “Vaccination has many roles to play in delivering more profitable, sustainable, and higher welfare beef production, from helping to achieve good fertility in beef cows to reducing the impact of disease in calves, ranging from slow growth rates, morbidity and mortality.”