Animal health newsletter


This Buckinghamshire and Surrey Animal Health newsletter reflects the welcome arrival of spring following the dismal winter rain and storms of recent weeks. The last days of February saw swathes of snowdrops and the promise of bluebells and newly born lambs means the longer days and warmer weather is not far off.

Spring lambing

Whether you're expecting the arrival of a small number of lambs on a smallholding or the arrival of hundreds on a farm, the AHDB booklet on Growing and finishing lambs for better returns will be both timely and of interest.

Avian flu

  • The warmer weather is also positive news as regards Avian Flu with the migration season for wild waterfowl 2020 - 2021 now ended and migratory waterfowl leaving the UK. Warmer temperatures will reduce the survival of the HPAI virus in comparison to the recent cold snaps we have experienced.
  • The total number of confirmed HPAI to 22 February 2021 in poultry and/or captive birds stands at 22 and 310 in wild birds (no reports of HPAI since 15 February 2021 in poultry or captive birds in GB).
  • Defra has confirmed that the risk of incursion of HPAI in wild birds remains very high in GB with overall risk of exposure to poultry at medium (with stringent bio security) to high (where bio security insufficient). It continues to be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors; follow strict biosecurity practice and remain vigilant to any signs of the disease.
  • Defra continues to ask that the public use the Defra helpline (telephone 03459 33 55 77) to report findings of any dead wild birds (wild ducks/geese, swans, gulls, birds of prey).

Have your say on the proposals to eradicate Bovine TB

It is good news that Defra reports progress in tackling Bovine TB with overall herd incidence and prevalence in England stable and the long-term trend showing a downward turn (with particularly encouraging progress in the High-Risk Area).

However, in the last year, over 27,000 cattle in England were slaughtered in an attempt to tackle the disease, causing significant distress to farming communities illustrating that Bovine TB remains one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges facing England today.

In order to bank the progress made to date, Defra launched on 27 January 2021 a consultation on the next phase of the Government's strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in England by 2038, calling for views on improved testing; an increased uptake of farm biosecurity measures and supporting responsible cattle movements.

The consultation closes on 24 March 2021.

Survey for Bovine TB in road killed badgers in the Southern Edge Area - volunteers required

  • APHA, in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, is conducting a research project to detect the presence and location of TB infection in badgers in the Southern Edge Area that includes Buckinghamshire.
  • Fresh, found dead (predominantly road killed) badgers will be examined and tested for TB. Evidence will be valuable to inform future bTB policy.
  • APHA is looking for volunteers to help locate and locate badger carcasses which will be collected from their premises by a specialist courier and taken to the University of Nottingham (guidance and carcass collection kits will be available from APHA).
  • The collection will start in April 2021 and remain open for 12 months.

Exit from EU - find a professional to certify export health certificates

If you want to export animals and animal products from the UK, you need to make arrangements for someone to sign an export health certificate for your type of consignment.

  • This will be an official vet or sometimes a local authority food competent certifying officer. They will check your consignment meets the health requirements of the destination country.
  • There's no fee for the certificate but you'll usually be charged for the certifier's time.
  • If you're a pet owner taking your pet abroad, speak to your vet. This list does not cover vets who issue pet travel documents.

Heat stress in livestock

Whilst the long, hot, dry days of summer may seem a long way off, now is the time to prepare to prevent heat stress in livestock.

Pigs kept outdoors are particularly vulnerable to radiant heat gain and it is important that they have access to shade in sunny weather. Ways in which producers can minimise heat stress include wallowing and shade provided within a suitable environment.

Hedge cutting and woodland

If you are a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship claimant, then you must adhere to various requirements on land being used for agriculture (eg woodland and hedges) or you could receive a reduction in your payment.

From 1 March, you must not cut or trim hedges or trees but can carry out hedge and tree coppicing, and hedge laying, from 1 March until 30 April. Fruit and nut trees in orchards, or trees acting as windbreaks in orchards, vineyards, hop yards or hop gardens are not included in the ban.

Farming rules for water

Since 2 April 2018, all famers in England have had to comply with rules introduced to help improve water quality by reducing diffuse pollution. The rules, eight in total, standardise good farming practices that prevent manure, fertiliser and soil from entering watercourses.

FCN and FarmWell - help available for farmers and their families

  • The farming industryFarming Community Network logo is entering a time of change and restructuring as the impact of our exit from the EU begins to be felt with changes to government funding and new market conditions bringing uncertainty and worry. This, along with continued extreme weather anticipated along with the continuing impact of COVID-19, many farmers would welcome help and support.
  • Whilst the farming industry time and again demonstrates its resilience, many are facing anxiety and stress so it is worth remembering that there are many sources of support available specifically aimed at farmers and their families including FCN and FarmWell. They can:
    • connect you with the most relevant sources of information to help you make the best decisions and provide tips and insights;
    • help you to plot a successful course for the future of your farm business and support you in planning for succession and retirement; and
    • assist you to look after your own wellbeing and that of your family and staff and to provide information around working safely and productively.

FCN has groups of local volunteers; a free, confidential national helpline (telephone 03000 111 999) which is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm, and an e-helpline.

Keep an eye on your neighbours and friends and provide them with these contact details.

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