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LAMMA 2021

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UK-based Benchmark to focus on animal health and welfare

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This information is brought to you by Benchmark Animal Health makers of Mydiavac.

Benchmark’s new site is being developed at Edinburgh Biocampus for the production of animal vaccines
Benchmark’s new site is being developed at Edinburgh Biocampus for the production of animal vaccines

A new UK-based animal health company with strong links to agriculture has entered the market, promising to bring a fresh approach to benefit the livestock industry.


By focusing extensive research and development plans solely on improving animal health and welfare, Benchmark Animal Health is committed to a healthy and prosperous UK livestock farming community.


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Your farm animal health plan - everything you need to know...Your farm animal health plan - everything you need to know...

About Benchmark

Benchmark Animal Health is part of the wider Benchmark Holdings PLC which has four divisions, all of which aim to work together to improve the efficiency, sustainability and productivity of the animal health and food production industries.


Matt Haslam, one of Benchmark’s in-house vets, explains: “We are proud of our company ethos, which is based around the ‘three Es’ principle.


“Our ‘three Es’ approach to business is the cornerstone of Benchmark. Our reputation is built on being honest and fair.


“We take a long-term view, operating in a way that safeguards society and the world in which we work now and in the future. This principle places equal value on Ethics, Environment and Economics.”


Mr Haslam says: “Benchmark commits to conducting business in an ethical manner and to act with integrity. We are continually striving to improve the health and welfare of the animals in our sector. We believe the ethical treatment of animals is intrinsic to the health and welfare of the people they help feed or provide companionship to.”


“The company operates in an environmentally responsible and efficient manner to minimise adverse impacts on the environment. By improving animal health, the efficiency of livestock and aquaculture farming enterprises inherently improves and output increases for the same environmental impact. In an era when we will need to produce more from less, healthy, efficient animals are essential.


“Benchmark Animal Health understands the importance of economics in the human-animal relationship. We strive for economic fairness for all industry stakeholders - be they consumers, farmers, vets or pet owners. Producers need innovation and investment from animal health companies and this framework provides us with a great platform upon which to deliver it,” Mr Haslam says.

Five-point lameness treatment plan

  • Cull badly infected, or repeatedly infected animals - ewes with misshapen feet, and those which have been treated more than once for footrot or scald should be cull-tagged
  • Quarantine incoming animals for at least three weeks
  • Treat clinical cases promptly. Identify, score and treat lame sheep as soon as possible
  • Avoid the propagation of infection - improve housing and sheep gathering areas
  • Vaccinate biannually - time doses to coincide with high risk periods

Other organisations supporting the sheep lameness campaign and the ‘Five-point plan’ include the National Sheep Association, Eblex, the National Farmers Union, the National Trust and the Royal Agricultural Society of England


New research

One element of Benchmark’s Sustainability Science division is the Food Animal Initiative (FAI), a commercial research farm in Oxford, with which many farmers will already be familiar. It has been at the forefront of research into the control of lameness in sheep. 


FAI’s own sheep, along with flocks from two other farms, were closely monitored for lameness over several years. Mr Haslam says the study has scientifically proven over-zealous foot trimming can exacerbate foot problems. Its results have led to the launch of an industry-wide, ‘five-point plan’, which aims to reduce lameness in the national sheep flock in line with the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) to a target of less than 5 per cent by 2016, and to less than 2 per cent by 2021.


FAI took over the tenancy of the former Oxford University farm in Wytham in 2001. At the time, the holding covered 425 hectares (1,050 acres), but additional land has since been acquired, taking the total area up to 668ha (1,650 acres). The farm supports a herd of 120 suckler cows, along with a flock of 1,400 Coopworth ewes. There is also a high welfare poultry hatchery, breeding and rearing unit, and a deep litter, free-farrowing pig unit.

Sheep flock

The sheep flock is a commercially viable enterprise based around a low-input system, producing finished lambs sold deadweight, mainly off grass. All ewes carrying singles and twins lamb outside, with the lambing period starting on April 1. Lambs are marketed from August until the beginning of January.

Coopworth sheep

Coopworth sheep were developed several decades ago by a team of scientists in New Zealand and remain a popular hybrid in the country, also being found in Australia, parts of Europe and the USA.

The main breeds used to produce the Coopworth, which is valued for both its meat and its wool, are the Border Leicester and the Romney. Adult animals weigh around 55kg.

Vaccine development at the Benchmark vaccine plant in Braintree, Essex, where Mydiavac is produced.

Benchmark vaccines

Benchmark Vaccines is another division of Benchmark Animal Health which operates from laboratories in Essex and Edinburgh. Its point of difference is while many other animal vaccine production companies also manufacture for the human health sector, Benchmark is focused solely on animal health and carries out all of its product development in the UK.


The company believes another benefit it offers customers is the direct access it has to its own farm animals. Not only does this keep staff focused on the practical aspects of livestock management, it also allows research and testing to be tightly controlled and validated in-house. A proportion of the income generated by vaccine sales is returned to the farming industry, to support further research.


One of Benchmark Animal Health’s flagship products is Mydiavac, an inactivated vaccine to protect sheep against enzootic abortion in ewes (EAE), a disease which can have a serious financial impact on sheep farms. Unlike rival products to control enzootic abortion, Mydiavac can be used on pregnant sheep and in the face of an outbreak.

A group of Benchmark gimmers from 2013. A similar group will be vaccinated with Mydiavac in January next year.

Mydiavac, an inactivated vaccine

Mr Haslam says: “Mydiavac can be used on in-lamb ewes because it is an inactivated vaccine, as opposed to a live vaccine.


“The effects of an abortion storm caused by EAE during the lambing period can be devastating for producers, both emotionally and financially. Mydiavac offers a practical method to curb the spread and impact of the disease.


“I would advise any producer whose flock is showing a high level of abortion to first consult their vet, obtain a diagnosis and devise a treatment plan.”


More information about enzootic abortion in sheep and tips on how to reduce the risk of infection will be published in future articles from Benchmark.


Knowledge transfer

5M Enterprises joined Benchmark Holdings in 2003 as the technical publishing and knowledge transfer arm of the group to serve people and businesses working in agriculture, aquaculture and the food chain with industry news, technical information, e-learning and market analysis. Its experts, based out of the UK, China, Russia, India and the US, report on a wide range of industry and sector-related issues in a bid to provide its base of six million readers with succinct, timely and relevant information for their businesses.


Another element of Benchmark’s publishing arm is its online and distance learning programmes for agriculture and aquaculture. Students from the University of St Andrews and the University of Oxford are among those who use the service to gain accredited degrees in sustainable agriculture and aquaculture.


Benchmark’s Technical Publishing division also currently offers 15 distance-learning courses to develop core industry skills. In 2008, the company launched a postgraduate diploma and MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture, which was developed by technical experts from the Fish Vet Group and St Andrews University.

Benchmark sheep flock

The Benchmark sheep flock being herded for shearing in June 2014.


One of the most successful Benchmark products used in aquaculture is Salmosan, which is used to control sea lice on salmon farms. Sea lice are parasites which feed on the mucus, skin tissue and blood of the host, often causing stress, reduced growth and performance, and even death if left untreated. As a result, controlling sea lice is still one of the most significant challenges facing the global salmon industry.


Remaining true to its core values, Benchmark is ploughing some of the profits from the sale of Salmosan into multiple research programmes aimed at bringing innovative sea lice control measures to market. An area of particular interest is the potential for using biological control to reduce the number of sea lice in salmon cages by increasing the number of the insect’s natural predators, which includes several species of ‘cleaner’ fish, such as wrasse and lumpsuckers.


It is hoped in the future this control method will help to reduce the reliance on pharmaceuticals, thereby increasing the industry’s environmental credentials and boosting producers’ margins.



In November 2014, Benchmark announced a proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital of SalmoBreed. The business specialises in the selective breeding of Atlantic salmon and occupies a strong position in the Norwegian salmon industry.


During the same period, Benchmark also announced the proposed acquisition of 81.84 per cent issued share capital of Atlantic salmon egg production company, Stofnfiskur in Iceland. Mr Haslam says acquiring these businesses enables Benchmark to be part of the primary role breeding and genetics play in the development of animal production efficiency, health, welfare and sustainability in the global livestock and aquaculture industries.

Benchmark Holdings

  • Benchmark Holdings was set up in 2000 by three experts with a wealth of experience in the livestock sector.
  • The company employs more than 220 people, across Great Britain, Ireland, Brazil, USA, Norway, Russia, China and Thailand
  • Benchmark Animal Health was established in 2013
  • Benchmark’s Sustainability Science division consists of an international network of commercial and research farms and business to provide practical guidance for agriculture, aquaculture and the food supply chain. Clients and partners include McDonald’s, Tesco and Marks & Spencer
  • The Fish Vet Group is part of Benchmark Animal Health Division. It has five veterinary practices which employ more than 50 vets and biologists and cover three continents. It provides expertise and diagnostic services to the global aquaculture sector

This information is brought to you by Benchmark Animal Health Ltd. makers of Mydiavac. Always consult your veterinary surgeon. Use medicines responsibly.


Further information including a product SPC, can be obtained from Benchmark Animal Health Ltd. Benchmark House, SmithyWood Drive, Sheffield, S35 1QN or Email:, Tel: 0845 009 3342

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