There is a potential gain for the agriculture industry of a minimum of €200m per annum in added value if slaughterhouses were equipped for post-mortem health data recording and feedback from veterinary inspectors to farmers, a conference heard this morning.

Speaking at the Veterinary Ireland AGM and annual conference in Mullingar, this morning Finbarr Murphy, chief executive of Veterinary Ireland congratulated Slaney Meats, Bunclody, Co Wexford, who, in conjunction with Temporary Veterinary Inspectors, are the first in Ireland to record and feedback post-mortem disease information to farmers and primary producers.

He encouraged all stakeholders, including Animal Health Ireland and Meat Industry Ireland to get behind this initiative with a view to its nationwide rollout.

“We believe that the clinical and pathological data that veterinary inspectors could record at slaughterhouses is very valuable information which should be provided back to farmers.  This data would equip farmers and their own vets so that they are better informed about taking the most effective preventative and corrective actions for their herd and would form the basis of valuable herd health planning for the future,” said Murphy.

Murphy said this type of initiative would lead to improved productivity, animal welfare and profitability on Irish farms, with a potential gain for the agriculture industry of a minimum of €200m per annum in added value.

“The failure to have systems in place to record and feedback this information from slaughterhouses means that a substantial amount of valuable information is being lost,” said Murphy.

‘Added value to the meat inspection service’ was the focus of a submission by Veterinary Ireland to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in 2012, which included specific proposals to attach feedback information from veterinary inspectors to the animal ID, which can be returned through both factory payslips or returns and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) database.

The submission was supported by examples of conditions such as lung lesions, liver fluke and fertility that could give rise to significant savings to agriculture if appropriate information feedback structures were in place.

“This is another example where vets can play a critical partnership role with farmers in minimising animal disease risk and the consequent losses in output and production,” said Murphy.  “Maintaining and improving herd health contributes to improved farm efficiencies, improved animal welfare and supports high-food quality standards in light of potential farm expansions.”

Sustainable Animal Health

Improving farm efficiencies also forms part of a growing need to feed an ever-increasing world population in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable fashion.  Murphy pointed to Veterinary Ireland’s submission on sustainable animal health as part of the rural development consultation process.

“The concept of sustainable animal health involves veterinary practitioners and animal health organisations – for instance Animal Health Ireland – engaging with livestock farmers in a pro-active fashion to highlight animal disease and welfare issues, environmental issues, food-chain hazards and risk control measures,” explained Murphy.

“Such a programme would involve veterinary practitioners engaging with their clients to facilitate technology transfer of relevant information in the areas of sub-clinical disease awareness, preventative medicine, environmental sustainability, animal data monitoring and recording (ICBF).”

Murphy said that such programmes already exist and are successful in other EU member states, demonstrating how vets are in a very unique position to help to improve efficiencies for meat and dairy producers, by encouraging improvements in fertility, genetics, preventative medicine and disease management.

The Agriculture Minister officially opened the annual Veterinary Ireland Annual Conference and AGM this morning, which took place in Mullingar Park Hotel.

The event saw Vivienne Duggan, MVB DACVIM appointed President of Veterinary Ireland with a formal handover of the chain of office from Donal Lynch, MVB.

The new President of Veterinary Ireland, Vivienne Duggan, said that she looked forward to seeing the Animal Health and Welfare Act and the Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Act bedded in.

“I also look forward to supporting the promotion of our profession and our policies, as we continue to engage with and drive important issues across all sectors in order to support the full spectrum of veterinary work in terms of animal health and welfare, improved farm efficiencies and protecting food safety in Ireland,” said Duggan.

More than 100 veterinarians representing all aspects of the veterinary profession, including livestock, companion animal and equine vets, were involved in hearing and debating formal motions at the Veterinary Ireland AGM.

More reports from Mullingar to follow