FVE Policy Paper: Herd Health Plan
A) Objectives of the Herd Health Plan Safe food is produced by healthy animals. Health and welfare are greatly influenced by the way animals are kept and raised. At the level of primary production, the farmer is a key responsible in achieving optimal animal health and welfare. To support the farmer in such activity, the design of a Herd Health Plan (HHP) for each specific farm is desirable as part of the “stable to table” approach.
It is clear that the role of the farmer has thus changed during recent years, i.e. from ‘producing animals’ towards ‘producing food’. Current legislation therefore refers to the farmer as a Food Business Operator (FBO) who “shall ensure that all stages of production, processing and distribution of food under their control satisfy the relevant hygiene requirements”, as laid down in Art 3 of Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004, on the hygiene of foodstuffs. In addition, Annex I of this Regulation lays down general hygiene requirements to be respected by FBO at all stages of the food chain.
The new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union (2007-2013), stating that “Prevention is better than cure” (COM 539 (2007) final), also emphasises the importance of on-farm bio-security measures and the crucial role farmers play in it. But not only farmers: ‘a collective approach must be taken in addressing prevention and bio-security measures’. This includes (1) the Private Practitioner regularly visiting the farm (hereafter referred to as the Designated Veterinarian), as an advisor and partner of the farmer in helping to ensure the health of farmed animals and therefore the safety of respective food products; and (2) the Official Veterinarian (OV) who is performing regular checks on a certain number of farms per year.
The HHP is designed to be a comprehensive and sustained management system, the main objective being – in addition to the prevention of animal diseases – the welfare of animals and the implementation of requirements targeted to achieve food safety. This includes e.g. the implementation of official hygiene requirements, as well as the correct and targeted use of medicinal products for animals or optimizing the use of antibiotics.
The HHP should include good husbandry practices (with regards to housing, climate, water/feeding and management), guidelines for the use of veterinary medicinal products and feed additives (EPRUMA Best Practice Framework for the use of Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals in the EU, September 2007) as well as a plan of preventive healthcare and guidelines for the prevention of epizootics and zoonotic diseases. The HHP should also include guidelines for Farm Visitation Schemes, namely protocols and recording systems to monitor herd health and welfare, and a plan of regular visits by the designated veterinarian (Health Visitation Scheme). In addition, the HHP should help the farmer to establish hygiene schemes and to fulfil the requirements on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs (Regulation (EC) 2073/2005).