Livestock Disease Assurance South East Region (LASER) Pilot Cattle Health Initiative

Project number:                    72106

Lead contractor:                   WestPoint Veterinary Group

Partner:                                 SEEDA

Start & end date:                   01 June 2009 – 30 September 2012 (extended)

Actual end date:                    13 February 2013

 

The Problem: 

The value of a known and high health status herd is well documented.  Many pedigree breeders have understood the benefits of identifying infectious diseases and taking steps to control or eradicate these diseases, either through vaccination or testing and eradication. However the value to commercial farmers of controlling infectious disease has not always been apparent.  A number of health schemes exist, but membership has been low, due to the involved process of achieving the required minimum status.

 

Project Aims: 

  1. To encourage wide participation and membership across the SE region.
  2. To encourage cattle farmers to use their status to add value to their stock.
  3. To encourage a better understanding of the impact of diseases on herds.
  4. To encourage cattle farmers to instigate control methods for these diseases, such that they achieve a higher health status for their herd

 

Approach:

LASER is a regional health scheme run by a board of farmers, vets and livestock advisors to promote known and higher health standards in SE region’s livestock. The initiative is supported by SE AH&W group and by SEEDA.

The scheme will operate through an inclusive membership, such that any farmer in the region and knowing the health status for his stock may join.  It will initially cover the four major infectious diseases of cattle: BVD, IBR, Johnes, and Leptospirosis.  It will be open to dairy and beef farmers, regardless of size of herd.  Each of the diseases will be attributed a status: Bronze (infected), Silver (infected with some control methods), Gold (in the process of eliminating the disease), or Platinum (free of the disease).  The scheme will be affiliated to CheCS.

 

Results summary:

Comparison of project performance compared to targets

 

Number of holdings

Number Bronze

Number Silver

Number Gold

Number Platinum

 Yr1

500

250

220

20

10

 Yr2

1000

500

420

50

30

 Yr3

3000

1000

1700

150

150

 Laser  achievements Sept – 2012

1336

1238

371

34

35

 Deviation –  number of  holdings

-1664

+238

-1329

-116

-115

 % of target

-55%

+24%

-78%

-77%

-77%

 

Whilst the project has been successful at recruiting farmers to join the LASER scheme, it has been less successful at promoting those farms upwards through the health status categories. A tactic of asking farmers to opt-out rather than opt-in proved most successful at increasing recruitment.   The failure of the project to meet the targets was primarily associated with the participating veterinary surgeons failing to update the status of their registered herds.

Much has been learnt about engaging with farmers and vets in this type of health assurance scheme, but there is less evidence of how the scheme has impacted on animal disease levels in the region.

 

Planned activity:

  1. LASER has been used by the TB Risk Based Trading Group and has helped shaped their recommendations to Ministers. This group’s proposal will be announced in April 2013. It is likely that LASER will have a role in helping farmers to reduce the risk in disease spread via cattle trade after this announcement.
  2. LASER is being used to monitor the progress of producers signed up to the South Downs Eradication Group. The SE AH&W group has committed to setting up other BVD eradication groups across the region in the autumn/winter of 2013/14
  3. A number of pharmaceutical companies have expressed an interest to support the legacy of the project by addressing particular industry sectors and encouraging progress through the LASER levels
  4. The SE AH&W group has agree to look at the opportunity to develop a LASER scheme for the sheep sector to include foot rot, intestinal parasites and causes of abortion
  5. To ensure continued engagement of the veterinary sector, automatic assignation of health status for participating farms is important. This could be achieved by data integration with BCMS and individual veterinary practices IT management systems.