‘Science will play a key role in the future of livestock farming in the North’

Science will play a central role in shaping the future of livestock farming in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Permanent Secretary, Noel Lavery, said.

Lavery was speaking recently at a science conference organised by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

At AFBI’s ‘Shaping Livestock Farming for 2030’ event he told delegates that unprecedented change is ahead for the local agri-food industry with Article 50 being triggered.

The sector will also have to overcome the challenge of meeting increasing global demands for safe, wholesome and sustainably-produced food, he added.

“It is more important than ever that my Department and AFBI, together with industry and wider stakeholders, work collectively to address the challenges ahead and realise the new opportunities this change will create to develop a sustainable and profitable industry.

“Our agri-food sector will continue to depend on the knowledge, skills and creativity of our local scientists when competing on a global scale.

The need to improve production efficiency, resilience and animal health and welfare will inevitably need science-led solutions.

Scientists will also continue to play a role in education, monitoring and regulation to achieve environmental outcomes as well as in the facilitation of international trade, according to Lavery.

“Our long-term aim for agriculture and the agri-food industry here is to promote a sustainable, competitive, high-performing, knowledge-based sector that is prosperous and compliant,” he said.

Lavery believes AFBI plays a pivotal role in strengthening the evidence base for policy development in Northern Ireland.

It also works to meet the Department’s broad range of statutory-driven analytical testing work requirements and emergency response needs, he added.

Conference delegates also heard how remote sensing and a range of other new technologies are set to reveal insights for livestock farmers in areas such as hoof health, milk content, herd fertility and feed intake within each individual animal.

Meanwhile, advances in areas such as DNA-based technologies are broadening the understanding of disease transmission and providing opportunities to reduce susceptibility to infectious diseases, the conference was told.