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Ruminant High Health Group

Ruminant High Health Group

What is the project about?

Infectious disease is one of the most significant constraints on animal production in Northern Ireland.  It is estimated that the UK sheep and cattle industries experience losses of more than £500 million per annum to endemic diseases. Historically approaches to disease control have focused on measures to control individual diseases, however a diverse range of infections have similar underlying risk factors, so by addressing the risk for one infection farmers may be able to address risk factors for other infections.

This project aims to develop a novel approach to infection control using available but under-utilised data and on-farm infection risk assessment findings. This will bespoke advice to be provided by veterinary practitioners to address the specific mix of infection risks and history identified on farms in the context of each individual farm’s management structure. Evidence suggests that this type of coordinated, data driven, risk-based approach to infection control can be more effective and more easily implemented by farmers.

How will the project be implemented?

The Operational Group, led by Animal health & Welfare NI, will manage the development of a Data Hub which will be designed to capture a range of information that is already available, but not used in an integrated way, to assist with infection control. This will include data relating to animal births/deaths, animal movements, laboratory findings and medicine use data. These data streams will be used to populate on-farm risk assessments using a digital platform to allow the assessment of infection risks, review medicine use and develop bespoke health plans. The project will provide online dashboards displaying information back to the farmer allowing the benchmarking of animal health measures within and between similar herds.

The first module will focus on John’s disease risks and will then be further developed to incorporate other common infections risk measures specific to beef herds and sheep flocks.  As each stage is developed it will be piloted by the farmer members of the Operational Group to ensure it is fit for purpose before it is made available to the wider sector. By the end of the project the risk assessment tool will be available to all dairy, beef and sheep farms in Northern Ireland.

How can I find out more?

To find out more information on this project contact sam.strain@animalhealthni.com.