Survey launched to improve neonatal survival

Monday, 3 December 2018

Increasing profitability for farmers through improved lamb and calf survival is the key focus of a new project involving British beef and sheep units.

Funded jointly by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Hybu Cig Cyrmu (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the project is being run by Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham Universities and will link to existing work at Bangor University.

The initial stage of this project involves collecting data from farms on health measures in the neonatal period, with the target of improving productivity and responsible antibiotic use on-farm.

Alexander Corbishley, Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “With the challenging economic climate and the need to reduce the environmental impact of ruminant production systems, there has never been a greater need to increase the sector’s efficiency, whilst also promoting sustainable antibiotic use.”

“By carrying out this project we will be able to identify the key management factors that can be addressed by farmers to improve performance.”

With limited data currently availability to benchmark health status and antibiotic use, an online survey has been launched for levy payers across England, Scotland and Wales. The data will be collected anonymously and includes requests for estimates of survival, information on management practices and opinions on reasons behind medicine use.

Dr Lis King, AHDB Scientist said: “This project will lead on to a control plan focussing on neonatal disease that could increase productivity and ultimately profitability for beef and sheep farmers. We’ll also be able to understand current antibiotic use and look at options for reducing use on farm, which is key in developing a healthy and sustainable GB livestock industry.”

Once developed, suckler herds and ewe flocks will be invited to pilot the control plan around the UK, alongside their veterinary surgeons, before wider release.  The survey will run until 31st January and can be filled in by farmers here:

The work was financed from the £2 million fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies – AHDB, HCC and QMS. The fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at point of slaughter in England for animals, which have been reared in Scotland or Wales.