“Ireland faces into its biggest opportunity to grow its food production from livestock and dairy sectors since joining the EU, when milk quotas are abolished in 2015.  Vets can play a critical partnership role with farmers at this time in minimising animal disease risk and the consequent losses in output and production.”

This is according to John Gilmore, chairman of the Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland (CAVI), whose annual conference takes place in Galway this weekend.

“Maintaining and improving herd health contributes to improved farm efficiencies, improved animal welfare and supports food quality standards in light of potential farm expansions,” said Gilmore.

Delegates to the CAVI conference heard specifically about the need for further farmer education related to the risk, prevention and cost savings associated with the management of animal diseases ranging from mastitis, to Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV); as well as the role of the veterinary practitioner as a guardian of the food chain.

Paradoxically, delegates also heard about some technologies designed to improve efficiencies, which have been shown to be less effective than conventional farming systems.

More than 200 livestock vets and experts from the island of Ireland are participating in the CAVI conference. Expert commentary includes:

“The most dramatic change to Irish agriculture, since the impact of accession to the EU, is likely to come with the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.”  – Alan Renwick, Professor of Agriculture and Food Economics, University College of Dublin.

“The total economic damage caused by production diseases in livestock is larger than the damage caused by notifiable diseases such as foot and mouth.” – Henk Hogeveen, Associate Professor, Business Economics of Wageningen University and the Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University

“The business case for farmers to improve mastitis control in their herds is very clear. The research shows us that there are significant economic gains to be made through increased production, a reduction in cases treated and so on.” – Finola Mc Coy, Programme Manager for CellCheck, Animal Health Ireland

“Infections with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) cause substantial economic losses to cattle industries. Reliable and rapid detection of persistently BVDV infected (PI) calves is of utmost importance for the efficacy of modern BVDV control programmes.” – Robert Fux, Institute for Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich.

Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV): “The major viral cause of severe respiratory disease in young cattle, the distribution of BRSV is worldwide with Ireland being no exception.” – Peter Nettleton, formerly with the Virus Surveillance Unit, Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh.