Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss gave a presentation to students and staff at Harper Adams on ‘Current challenges in animal health & welfare and opportunities for those involved in the sector’.
She demonstrated the importance of animal health to global trade agreements – drawing on the current spread of African Swine Fever from wild boar in Russia to farms in Romania, together with its emergence in Asia, explaining that should the UK have notifiable outbreaks, other countries could ban imports of British pork.
Dr Middlemiss described the UK’s robust animal health surveillance system, which includes horizon scanning, border checks and information exchanges, to protect against disease transmission. She also outlined the Livestock Traceability Programme, which is expected by late 2019, to assist disease control, enhance farm to fork assurance and provide greater transparency to improve consumer confidence.
All of these measures, she explained, will aid the UK’s stance as a credible trade partner, enhance livestock production and help build the Great British food brand.
Addressing where the UK could do more, Dr Middlemiss pointed to the need for greater consumer education on animal welfare, the importance of the UK’s antimicrobial resistance strategy and delivering on the contribution of animal health and welfare, through underpinning scientific evidence, to the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan.
She also highlighted the crucial ‘One Health’ role that vets can play across the entire food chain, from field to fork, noting, in particular, the lack of farm vets being trained in the UK and expressing hope that the new Harper and Keele Veterinary School would play a key role in addressing the issue.
Dr Middlemiss was given a tour of the campus in which she was able to see elements of the University’s extensive farming operations. The tour also included facilities relating to the University’s work in educating veterinary nurses and physiotherapists and the Agri-EPI/Harper Adams Precision Dairy Unit. Professor Mark Rutter explained the research undertaken on the new Dairy Unit to investigate dairy cow welfare and behaviour and developments in Precision Livestock Farming technologies that assist data collection to provide early detection of animal diseases or other conditions where veterinary intervention is required.
During her visit, Dr Middlemiss met with a number of staff involved in the creation of the Harper and Keele Veterinary School to discuss the background to the initiative and the School’s new curriculum. The School will receive its first intake of students in the autumn of 2020, so it was timely for the Chief Veterinary Officer to see, at first hand, how the plans for its delivery are taking shape.
Commenting on the visit, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn, said that, “We were delighted to be able to welcome the Chief Veterinary Officer to the University to see our work and to engage in discussions with our students and staff. It is important for us to hear from those helping to shape national policies, and Dr Middlemiss gave an excellent presentation to a large audience keen to hear about the Chief Veterinary Officer’s role in working on issues of vital importance to UK farming, including in support of international trade, and to animal health and welfare more generally.”