Farmers should be talking to their vets now about ways to avoid potential disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit, says British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Simon Doherty.
As a vet and former Animal Science and Aquaculture Specialist to the UK Government Department for International Trade (DIT), I have a firm focus on the issues a no-deal Brexit scenario could bring to the veterinary profession and the agricultural community.
To navigate an ever-shifting Brexit landscape, I believe farmers and vets can help each other by working together and making robust preparations for any potential pitfalls.
As Brexit looms and a no-deal scenario looks increasingly possible, the British livestock sector has explored and highlighted the unique set of challenges it faces.
Many of these have been flagged by agricultural stakeholders and gained prominent media coverage over the last few weeks.
Concerns include disruption to the supply chain, which could affect export values, create additional costs and hurdles and cause potential animal welfare issues on farms.
The overarching concern around new trade deals and questions over how we maintain our world-leading high welfare standards only add to the pensive mood within the food supply chain.
The veterinary profession has a long list of concerns of its own over the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit.
With vets who graduated overseas making up about 30 per cent of the UK workforce, a top concern is around the supply of vets where there are already shortfalls in capacity, especially in areas which may be subjected to increases in demand.
It is estimated that the need for veterinary certification of animal products could increase by 325 per cent.
BVA has also said it is essential that Government gains ‘listed status’ for the UK in order to facilitate the movement of animal products, livestock, pets and horses.
Farm animal vets and Official Veterinarians work closely with the agriculture industry, ensuring livestock remain healthy and productive, certifying imports and exports, overseeing food safety and welfare in abattoirs, so many of our concerns are often shared across the agri-food sector.
BVA is supporting our members through this challenging period, with activity which has included an eight-point plan for surviving a no-deal Brexit.
With an unknown Brexit outcome on the horizon, it is more important than ever for farmers and vets to work closely together.
Our advice would be to plan as far ahead as possible. Emergency call outs are unavoidable, but getting routine herd health and fertility visits and bTB tests booked in early is a good idea.
Where you are using vaccines as part of your preventative herd or flock health plan, talk to your vet about when you are likely to need them to avoid any gaps due to potential medicine supply issues.
Where you are likely to be exporting animals or animal products, again, plan as far in advance as possible to allow your vet to schedule the time to gather up the necessary paperwork, undertake sampling and laboratory testing, and block out time to carry out inspections and complete your export certificates.
My hope is that with early planning, vets and farmers can help each other to weather a challenging Brexit transition by working together.
Simon can be found tweeting at @simondocvet