Getting to grips with production diseases

Pictured is UFU Policy Officer Caroline Buick and John Thompson (UFU) at the signing of the MOU between AHI and AHWNI.
Pictured is UFU Policy Officer Caroline Buick and John Thompson (UFU) at the signing of the MOU between AHI and AHWNI.

PRODUCTION diseases are a significant drain on farmer’s profits.

Given the failure of the supply chain to react to the soaring input costs experienced by the industry at present, anything which further reduces profitability needs to be addressed. It is very timely that the new industry driven initiative AHWNI is well on its way to launch the voluntary phase of the NI BVD eradication scheme in January.

AHWNI are now half way through the farmer meetings on the NI BVD Eradication Initiative and I am pleased to report that feed back from both farmers and vets is positive so far. Purchasing tags is top of the agenda for many farmers at this time of year and with January 2013 fast approaching I would encourage any farmer who is serious about herd health to consider the use of tissue tags. The rolling out of this programme will result in an improvement to the overall NI cattle herd health status and will have a marked economic benefit at individual herd level. More importantly, failure to implement an eradication scheme will put NI on the back foot, as both ROI and Scotland move towards compulsory schemes and therefore putting trade from NI at risk.

Liver Fluke is another production disease which has been brought to the attention of many NI farmers recently. The increasing risk posed by liver fluke is associated with high levels of rainfall, so taking that into consideration, it is easily understood why we have seen a substantial rise here. The summer of 2012 provided ideal conditions for liver fluke development and therefore it is essential to carry out the necessary steps to minimize the threat, including dosing sheep and cattle with a suitable flukicide. This should be included in herd health plans and I would urge anyone who is unsure of the necessary procedures to contact their vet.

Another worrying aspect of liver fluke is that it reduces the accuracy of the skin test for bovine TB by up to one third. This would result in an increased number of TB infected animals going undetected, and possibly moving around the country which would be disastrous for NI herd health and an added worry for farmers here.

I am pleased that DARD have published a call to AFBI for a research project which will investigate the role that endemic diseases such as liver fluke and Johne’s disease as well as nutritional/vitamin deficiencies, may have on TB occurrence and control. I hope that this work will commence as soon as possible given the worrying increasing prevalence of TB.