Coronavirus advice for farm vets, farmers and livestock keepers

The work of farm animal vets and Official Veterinarians (OVs), in maintaining the continuity and safety of the food supply chain is essential. The importance of all involved in the farm to fork process has been profoundly highlighted in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the current government rules to help curb the spread of Covid-19, veterinary practices may remain open and veterinary professionals can continue to go out to farms and clients on call outs for farm and equine work, but this must only be to provide urgent treatment and emergency care.

We have interpreted urgent care as urgent treatment and emergency care where animal welfare would be compromised by delaying for this period of time, or activities that are essential to maintaining the future food supply chain.

Farm work is varied and presents different challenges

We appreciate that the varied nature of farms and farm work means that what might be appropriate for one situation, is not for another, and have tried to provide some general pointers for farm vets, equine vets and Official Veterinarians (OVs) as well as sign posting to some useful resources from our specialist species colleagues.

Using your skills and expertise to judge each scenario and making sure that you are maintaining social distancing measures, will go a long way in upholding standards of animal health and welfare on farm but also making safe decisions for yourself and your clients.

The number of clients seen face-to-face should be kept to an absolute minimum and veterinary teams must insist on strict social distancing measures at all times. You should exercise judgement as to when it is necessary for you to see an animal and/or their owner in person.

  • Risk assess first

It is important in reading this guidance to consider (alongside safety measures to try and curb spread of Covid-19) that all of your usual risk assessments about biosecurity and working safely with farm animals should continue as normal. Any decisions made regarding human health protection with regards to Covid-19 should be in addition to, and not jeopardise any of these judgements.

It is also important to remember that there will be occasions when social distancing and/or isolation is not achievable and in these cases, visits should be avoided or delayed if possible.

Options for remote prescribing

Under normal circumstances the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons does not allow veterinary surgeons to prescribe veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) without a physical examination of the animal(s) having first taken place. However, RCVS Council has decided that there should be a temporary departure from this position under the current exceptional circumstances. This position will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, in any event, no later than 30 June 2020. Read the RCVS announcement for full details.

Call ahead

Always call your client ahead of any appointment or meeting to make sure that they understand the order of procedures and social distancing measures that you will be putting in place.

When on farm

Working with farm animals

  • Maintain a physical distance of 2m at all times from other people.
  • In cases where clients are self-isolating or confirmed to have Covid-19 they should not be involved in the visit at all. If there are no other farm staff available, this may require you to take a second member of practice staff to assist in moving livestock and ensuring your health and safety. We would discourage lone working in any farm environment. If two members of staff must travel to a site, consider travelling in separate vehicles.
  • Wear clean, disinfected protective clothing.
  • Wear gloves at all times, change these regularly and do not touch your face.
  • Where possible, contact with the client should be by telephone only. Where face to face interaction is required then this should only be with ONE person per visit.
  • Do not enter the farmhouse or any other residential area for any reason and do not accept any drinks or food.
  • Cleanse all relevant surfaces in your car regularly using appropriate disinfectant as per dilution instructions, particularly if anyone else has touched your vehicle. Focus on cleansing any areas that may have been touched, prior to leaving the farm. Additionally, parts of the vehicle you may have been in contact with before having the opportunity to cleanse yourself, such as boot handle, door handle and so on.

Working with horses

  • Maintain a physical distance of 2m at all times from other people.
  • Consider sedating animals needing treatment or investigation where appropriate, especially if this helps maintain the 2m physical distance from the handler.
  • In cases where clients are self-isolating or confirmed to have Covid-19, but a horse needs urgent or emergency care, a second member of practice staff should attend for safety.
  • Where possible, contact with the client should be by telephone only.
  • Cleanse all relevant surfaces in your car on leaving the yard, as above.

Further information

Read our further full guidance for veterinary practices in assessing emergency and urgent care during Covid-19 pandemic

Guidance for Farmers: 

Cattle: BCVA guidance

TB Testing

OVs can continue with bTB testing across Great Britain for now, but only if it can be carried out safely under public health guidance relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. All vets must consider if social distancing can be maintained, and if it cannot the test should not be undertaken. APHA released a bTB testing briefing note covering England and Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland the default position is that bTB testing visits should no longer be carried out. Under exceptional circumstances, tests may continue if they can be done safely in accordance with the Public Health Agency guidance.

Follow the most up to date government advice regarding statutory surveillance and bovine TB testing from APHA covering Great Britain and DAERA in Northern Ireland:

APHA Briefing Note

For further information, please visit TB Hub

Goats: Goat Vet Soc guidance 

Equine: BEVA guidance 

Sheep: Sheep Vet Soc website, National Sheep Association news

Poultry: BVPA updates

Pigs: Pig Vet Soc website and NPA Covid-19 message

Bees: The British Bee Keepers Association guidance

Deer: 

Veterinary surgeon visits/intervention on deer farms will be limited in the short term – except for occasional cases of dystocia in June during the calving season. Deer are likely be turned out in due course and have been, or will be, tagged and wormed as required.

If farm vets would appreciate some advice about  farmed deer from the Vet Deer Society then they are welcome to contact the VDS committee via email.

APHA guidance for government working animals           

 

This resource has been produced in conjunction with a number of our veterinary specialist divisions. A thank you to:

British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA)

Goat Veterinary Society (GVS)

Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS)

Pig Veterinary Society (PVS)

British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA)

Vet Deer Society (VDR)

Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA)

Association of Government Vets (AGV)