SFI annual health and welfare review

Black and white dairy cows looking at the camera

As part of its Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, Defra has confirmed the roll out of the SFI annual health and welfare review on the 7 February 2023.

On 23 August the RPA (Rural Payments Agency) and Defra made a number of changes to improve the user experience and clarified the use of the review.

Prior to 23 August the RPA required farmers to start the application process by completing a short form to express their interest in having a review. They were then sent an email inviting them to complete the application process. The process is being streamlined by the removal of the need to complete this expression of interest.

Eligible farmers can find out what the review includes and how to sign up at: GOV.UK | SFI annual health and welfare review.

The annual vet visit is the first element of the government’s Animal Health and Welfare Pathway which is being developed to support continuing improvements in farm animal health and welfare in England.

What does the review include?

Defra has been developing the review over the past year. Through it, farmers who keep cattle, sheep and pigs can obtain funding to pay for an annual vet visit.

Where do I apply?

To apply for the review, you will now only need a CRN (customer reference number) and your rural payments service password.

You can access the online application portal at: GOV.UK | Apply for an annual health and welfare review.

The review can be carried out by a vet, or vet led team, of the farmer's choice and will take place over a 2-3 hour period at a time of their convenience. It will concentrate on the animals’ specific health and welfare priorities:

  • Discuss animal health and welfare and agree achievable actions for the year ahead
  • Carry out diagnostic testing - BVD in cattle / PRRS in pigs / the effectiveness of worming treatments in sheep
  • Discussion on medicine use
  • Collect data to understand national herd/ flock health – this data will be anonymised and not used for future inspections or enforcement purposes

The minimum number of BVD tests within the review has now been reduced from six, to a minimum of five. This in order to align with the requirement of the BVD Free and CHECs schemes and avoid any confusion for vets and farmers. Farmers who have already applied for a review have already been contacted by the RPA who will update its terms and conditions to reflect this.

The annual review is designed to:

  • reduce endemic diseases
  • improve the welfare of animals
  • increase productivity
  • make sure the use of veterinary medicines and vaccines is appropriate

The paid vet visit will initially only be available to farmers eligible for BPS and who keep more than 50 pigs, 20 sheep or 10 cattle.

The flat payment rates per review will be:

  • pigs - £684
  • sheep - £436
  • beef cattle - £522
  • dairy cattle - £372

Rates aim to cover the vet’s time and the testing costs.

Guidance on eligibility can be found at: SFI annual health and welfare review | GOV.UK.

Testing should be carried out to the correct standards. This includes the processing of test results at labs that meet the specified standard.

Within the guidance published for vets there is clear information about this, as well as a list of recommended laboratories. Talk to your vet to make sure that they are aware of this guidance and work to it.

The NFU would encourage eligible members to look at this offer.

First step

Before you start, please have a look at the latest ‘how to’ video which covers the apply and claim process.

To see the review in action, hear from farmer Chris and vet Matt as they share their experience of conducting a review on Chris' farm in Cumbria.

When you're ready to apply, visit: GOV.UK | Apply for an annual health and welfare review.

The RPA, who is administering this scheme for Defra, will then check that the farmer is eligible. If they are they will receive an email inviting them to apply. The email will also include a link to the guidance.

Further information

More information on the background and future steps can be found in this Defra blog: The annual health and welfare review: rolling out yearly vet visits | GOV.UK.

On 23 August, it was confirmed that using the review to help someone export to the EU would be possible. Under the EU’s Animal Health regulation, if someone wants to export POAO (Products Of Animal Origin) to the EU, they must prove that the animals have come from a farm that has received a yearly vet visit.

The review fulfils this requirement, as long as the vet fills in the summary that a farmer receives at the end of the visit as evidence.

Read more on NFUonline

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