Farm animal deaths could have been prevented, conference told

MANY of the 243,500 animal deaths on farms last year could have been prevented, the Animal and Plant Health Association annual conference was told in Portlaoise yesterday.

Frank O’Sullivan, a vet in Trim, Co Meath, and the Animal Health Committee chairman with Veterinary Ireland, said much of the poor performance owing to animal sickness could have been avoided through strategic herd health management.

He said strategic herd health management was a crucial component of profitable farming as well as ensuring the production of safe and quality raw materials for the food industry.

“The benefits of improved herd health management and welfare are enormous in terms of increased farm income and quality assured food to the consumer.

“There are well established protocols for quality and safety in operation in food plants. A similar approach is necessary at farm level,” he said.

Outlining a case study of a mastitis problem in a high-yielding dairy herd of 100 cows, he said the annual loss of income through yield reduction, milk price penalties, culling of cows and veterinary treatment was €24,500.

“Better management of cows and milking equipment combined with intensive veterinary advice resulted in 80% of the lost income being recovered within 12 months,” he said.

Delegates were told, however, that the use of vaccines to prevent diseases in cattle had increased by more than 20% during the past year and by 60% over the past four years.

Denise Roche of the international market research company, Dmr Kynetec, which monitors trends in animal medicines in Ireland, outlined the findings.

The research also shows that expenditure on medicines and specialist diets for pets increased by more than 15% last year compared to a figure of 5% for farm animals.

Pets account for more than 20% of the €120 million spend annually on animal medicines.

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