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Speech By The Welsh Minister For Sustainability And Rural Development Jane Davidson AM

15 years ago

29th June, 2007 00h00

BVA Annual Welsh Dinner - Wales Millennium Centre, 26 June 2007 Noswaith dda foneddigion a boneddigesau Hoffwn i ddechrau drwy ddiolch i chi am y cyfle i ddod yma heno i gwrdd â chi i gyd, wrth imi gychwyn ar fy swyddogaeth newydd fel y Gweinidog dros Gynaliadwyedd a Datblygu Gwledig. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start by thanking you for the opportunity to come here this evening and meet with you as I take up my new role as Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development. The countryside has always played an important part in my life. I spent part of my childhood in the Yorkshire Dales where my mother's family have farmed for generations and where by Uncle still farms today and as a student I spent summers working on a sheep and dairy farm. In my experience the local vet was always a source of support, reassurance and motivation who contributed to make farming rewarding and worthwhile. The local veterinary practice is responsible for working with livestock owners to ensure the health and welfare of farmed animals entrusted into their care. In turn this makes a major contribution to the sustainability of the farming and food industry and more broadly to Welsh society - the rural communities, the rural economy and the Welsh language. The sustainability of the local veterinary practice is therefore of crucial importance and I am in no doubt of the valuable role the veterinary profession has to play in Wales. Private veterinary practices provide vital support to Animal Health, formally the State Veterinary Service, in delivering Assembly Government policy including the delivery of unique Welsh Assembly Government programmes, such as the Welsh Ewe Genotyping Scheme. In addition, through their close relationship with farmers, veterinary practitioners are in a position to influence good biosecurity and carry out the on- farm surveillance so crucial in the early detection and control of disease. Animal Health is currently working with representatives of the veterinary profession, including the British Veterinary Association, to review the framework for the important role that private veterinary practitioners play in the delivery of animal health and welfare policy in Great Britain. The Assembly Government is actively participating in this work and recognises the importance of this relationship. Today, there are a number of challenges facing farm animal practices in Wales including financial stability, provision of veterinary resources in remote areas and adapting to the consequences of climate change with the potential arrival of new diseases in the UK such as Bluetongue Virus. The role of vets has traditionally focused on the treatment of diseases, and this is still a crucial aspect of their responsibilities. However, if veterinary practices are to remain viable they need to be flexible in the face of change and scan the horizon for new opportunities. In line with the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy aim of 'Prevention is better than cure', there needs to be a more definitive shift in focus towards the provision of proactive services, such as animal health planning, which prevent disease. Animal Health Plans developed by vets working together with farmers are a useful tool to allow vets to pass on information on the latest research and best practice and to help livestock owners adapt to change. It is important that vets communicate to farmers the cost benefits of an effective Animal Health Plan - a general improvement in the health and welfare of animals and a reduced risk of disease incursion thereby raising farm profitability. In turn, the farmer's commitment to animal health planning provides an element of financial security for the veterinary practice. The Animal Health Plan template produced by a subgroup of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Committee has been distributed to all large animal veterinary practices in Wales and is freely available to those who want to use it. I encourage all vets and farmers to get involved. The template has also been endorsed by Farm Assured Welsh Livestock and incorporated into their Animal Health Programme. This is just one example of where veterinary organisations including the British Veterinary Association and Animal Health have been able to provide Government with an insight into the animal health issues at farm level and use their membership of Assembly Government committees as an opportunity to be pro-active and to develop initiatives. Other initiatives include campaigns to eliminate sheep scab and to eradicate Hydatid Disease in dogs before it causes major public health problems. The biosecurity Intensive Treatment Area project in South West Wales has demonstrated the value the local vet has to play on farm. Cattle keepers are encouraged to work with their vet to help identify and manage the risk factors for a TB herd breakdown. All of the seven Private Veterinary Practices in the Intensive Treatment Area actively helped develop the procedures and assessment tool and actively encouraged their clients to become involved. Positive feedback received has shown that "farmers clearly regarded their vet as being competent, approachable and importantly, understanding the specific nature of their farm". In March 2007 we implemented the Animal Welfare Act in Wales the most significant animal welfare legislation for nearly a century. It allows us to make secondary legislation to promote the welfare of non farmed animals and one of our first actions was to introduce the Docking of Working Dogs' Tails Regulation. We look to the veterinary profession and stakeholder groups such as the RSPCA to help develop and implement further Regulations and Codes of Practice to improve the health and welfare of companion and farm animals in Wales. Finally, vets and vet practices need to ensure that they have the skills and competencies to offer proactive services and are up to date with the latest thinking and best practices. I have asked my officials to look into educational opportunities for students in Wales who wish to go on to train as veterinary practitioners. In addition, the Assembly Government aims to work in partnership with the British Veterinary Association to look at opportunities to strengthen the provision of Continual Professional Development in Wales. It is important that we work together to maximise the contribution of the veterinary profession in Wales thereby contributing to its sustainability. We must ensure that veterinary practices are well placed to adapt to change and are able to provide the proactive services so important to the future improvement of animal health and welfare in Wales. We must rise to this challenge with a shared commitment. Rwy’n edrych ymlaen at gydweithio’n agos â chi yn y dyfodol, a gobeithio y gwnewch chi i gyd fwynhau’r noson hon heno. Diolch yn fawr I look forward to working closely with you in the future and wish you all an enjoyable evening. Thank you

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