Byline: Sally Williams
WELSH farmers today welcomed an independent report, calling for the veterinary profession to "rethink its relationship" with them and the Government, regarding ongoing battles against livestock diseases, including bovine TB.
Unlocking Potential, a report on veterinary expertise in food animal production by Professor Philip Lowe, calls for vets to play a more positive and central role in ensuring food safety through the creation of a Veterinary Development Council.
Statistics show that just 10% of veterinary private practice is on farm animals.
And the report emphasises the urgent need to overcome the increasing "marginalisation" of this vital service.
Professor Lowe said: "It is timely, for both farmers and vets, to be looking to the future and particularly at the role that vets need to play in ensuring the safety of the food chain.
"The new proposals from the Government for responsibility and cost sharing on animal health present both challenges and opportunities."
His report finds a "widening gap" between the perceptions of vets and farmers about the role of veterinary medicine.
It also claims that many farm vets voice fears that farmers are increasingly unable to access vital services because of a tendency for newly-qualified practitioners to gravitate towards small animal practice.
Meanwhile, farmers are more inclined to regard vets as costly "quasi regulators" who add little value to their businesses.
"Vets have to be clear about where their expertise will fit into this picture," said Professor Lowe.
"My recommendation is for the profession to seize the initiative and create a Veterinary Development Council, which could reconnect professional education and training with the needs of the primary customer, carve out new niches for technicians and develop the farm-health planning role of vets.
"It would also provide an opportunity to formalise the major part that vets can play, helping to equip farmers with the skills in animal health that they need in order to run their businesses and to ensure the supply of safe and good quality food."
He finds that the roles, responsibilities and training of veterinarians in the welfare of farm animals are unclear, while the profession itself expresses dissatisfaction with some aspects of the Government's Veterinary Surveillance Strategy and the role of the vet in monitoring animals for exotic disease. …