BHC Newsletter Winter FINAL

WINTER EDITION

ANIMAL HEALTH IRELAND Contributing to a profitable and sustainable farming and agri-food sector through improved animal health

BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER

FEATURE ARTICLES

LIVER FLUKE FORECAST NOVEMBER 2018 James O’Shaughnessy | Page 2

A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY | Donagh Berry | Page 7 SUCKLER COW FEEDING AND CALF HEALTH Mark McGee | Page 5

CLEAN CATTLE – HEALTHY FOOD | Joe Ryan | Page 12

NATIONAL BEEF HEALTH PROGRAMME

Animal Health Ireland, 4-5 The Archways, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, N41 WN27

FEATURE ARTICLE LIVER FLUKE FORECAST NOVEMBER 2018

James O’Shaughnessy, Chairman of Parasite Control Technical Working Group

E ach year, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in collaboration with Met Éireann advises farmers of the predicted risk of disease caused by liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) infection in livestock. This is based on meteorological data gathered between May and October by Met Éireann.

Advice should always be sought on treatment protocols and the appropriate interval at which such treatments should be given. Testing faecal samples for the presence of liver fluke eggs can help determine both the necessity and success of flukicide treatments. This is especially important given that resistance to flukicides is becoming an increasing concern.

The Disease Forecast Due to the dry weather conditions experienced in many parts of the country this summer, there is a moderate risk of liver fluke-related disease this winter for the north, west, south-west and midlands, with a lower disease risk expected for the east and parts of the south. However, farmers in these lower risk areas should still remain vigilant for signs of disease.

Other Tools for Predicting Risk of Liver Fluke Infections 1. The Regional Veterinary Laboratory (RVL) Liver Fluke Abattoir ELISA Survey Blood samples collected by DAFM staff from a selection of lambs born in 2018 (348 flocks) across 25 counties have been tested for antibodies to liver fluke by theDAFM Laboratory Service to determine the level of exposure of lambs in these flocks. Preliminary data from this survey indicates that the majority of moderately infected flocks are from counties on the western seaboard, with a small number of heavily infected flocks in the north-west.

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BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

LIVER FLUKE FORECAST NOVEMBER 2018

2. Fluke Infection in Irish Livestock Based on survey data collected between 2014 and 2015 from sheep flocks, dairy and beef herds, a model of exposure to the liver fluke in Ireland was developed. The model highlighted temperature, rainfall and vegetation indexes among the main risk factors (Naranjo-Lucena et al., 2018). In addition, the risk map (Figure 1) indicated that the predicted probability of exposure to Fasciola was greater in the western parts of the country. Farm-to-Farm Variation In assessing the risk of liver fluke disease on any particular farm, variation between individual farms in their soil type (whether soils are heavy or free- draining) must be taken into account, in addition to weather and landform. The intermediate host of the parasite which is a mud snail (Galba truncatula) , tends to be located in soil that is slightly acidic and muddy. Thus, areas of fields with rushes or wet patches (around gates, troughs) are a particularly common location for mud snails to be found. Aside from local conditions on the farm and prior weather conditions, it is important that livestock owners also factor in prior liver fluke history on the farm. This can be an important indicator of future disease risks. Monitoring of Disease

Figure 1. Spatial Distribution of Predicted Probabilities of exposure to Liver Fluke in Irish Livestock.

Liver fluke infection tends to be chronic in cattle, resulting in ill-thrift and poor performance. In sheep, chronic disease can occur but infection may also result in more acute clinical signs, and can cause sudden death in cases of heavy challenge. Livestock owners should continue to be vigilant for any signs of illness or ill-thrift in their animals and should consult with their veterinary practitioner for diagnosis of liver fluke infection or other potential cause(s) of these clinical signs. It is recommended that carcasses be referred by a veterinary practitioner to an RVL for necropsy in cases where the cause of death is not obvious. Information from abattoir examination of livers of previously sold fattened stock is also a valuable source of information to inform livestock owners of the prevalence of liver fluke infection on their own farm or on the efficacy of their control programme.

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BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

LIVER FLUKE FORECAST NOVEMBER 2018

Treatment and Control In areas of high risk and on farms where liver fluke infection has been diagnosed or where there is a prior history, livestock owners should consult with their veterinary practitioner to devise an appropriate treatment and control programme. When using flukicides to control and treat liver fluke infection, particular attention should be given to dosing cattle at the time of housing, and sheep in autumn or earlier in the year if there are concerns based on faecal examination results or prior disease history. For sheep, a drug effective against early immature as well as late immature and mature flukes should be used to protect against acute disease, and sheep should also be removed from affected pasture to prevent re-infection. If the flukicide given to cattle at housing is not effective against early immature fluke, then faecal samples should be taken six to eight weeks after housing and tested for the presence of liver fluke eggs. This will determine whether a follow-up flukicide treatment is necessary. Advice should always be sought on treatment protocols and the appropriate interval at which such treatments should be given. Testing faecal samples for the presence of liver fluke eggs can help determine both the necessity and success of flukicide treatments. This is especially important given that resistance to flukicides is becoming an increasing concern. In addition, bulk milk tests for antibodies to the parasite in dairy herds can be useful in monitoring year-to-year variation in exposure (please note that bulk milk tests cannot be used to judge the success of any treatment given). Where it is feasible, and as a long-term control option, areas of fields which are suitable habitats for the intermediate host (wet muddy areas often containing clumps of rushes) should be either fenced off or drained. This will result in a permanent reduction of snail habitat. What about Rumen Fluke? This parasite, Calicophoron daubneyi , which shares the same intermediate host as the liver fluke, has become more prevalent in Ireland over the last number of years in both cattle and sheep. The pathogenicity of rumen fluke is mainly due to the activity of the juvenile stages in the intestine, while adult flukes in the rumen are not normally associated with clinical signs. If clinical signs such as rapid weight loss or diarrhoea are seen, or if there is a history of previous disease from rumen fluke on the farm, consult with your veterinary practitioner as to whether treatment for rumen fluke is required. The finding of rumen fluke eggs in faecal samples of animals that are thriving and producing well does not indicate that treatment for rumen fluke is necessary. Further Information Sources Further details on liver fluke and its control, and information on flukicide selection for cattle along with information on the Beef HealthCheck programme are available on the Animal Health Ireland website click here . Information on the names and specifications of flukicides licensed for sheep may be accessed are available on the Teagasc website click here . References Naranjo Lucena, A., Munita Corbalán, M. P., Martínez-Ibeas, A. M., McGrath, G., Sayers, R., Mulcahy, G. and Zintl, A. (2018) “Validation of a spatial liver fluke model under field conditions in Ireland”, Geospatial Health, 13(1). doi: 10.4081/gh.2018.641.

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BEEF HEALTH CHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

FEATURE ARTICLE

SUCKLER COW FEEDING AND CALF HEALTH

Mark McGee and Bernadette Earley Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath

T he major cost incurred in suckled calf production is the cost of feeding the cow. A suckler cow must consume sufficient nutrients- energy, protein, minerals and vitamins- for her own maintenance and growth, as well as the needs of a growing foetus when pregnant, and milk production when lactating. Therefore, feed requirements of a suckler cow mainly depend on their body weight, age and whether they are dry (pregnant) or lactating. For mainly economic reasons, suckler cow nutrition generally involves mobilisation of cow body fat reserves in winter when feed is more expensive and deposition of body reserves during the subsequent grazing season when consuming lower cost grass. Body condition score (BCS), a measure of the relative fatness or body reserves of a cow, is an important management tool to consider in relation to feeding suckler cows. It is not desirable to have cows in very high (i.e. fat) or very low (i.e. thin) BCS. Target BCS (scale 0-5) for spring-calving cows at the end of the grazing season (housing) is ca. 3.0-3.5 and at calving is ca. 2.5. Over the indoor winter period, spring-calving cows in good BCS (3.0- 3.5) at housing can utilise some of their body reserves (0.5 to 1.0 BCS units) as a means of reducing expensive winter feed costs; this feed saving is equivalent to 1.0-1.5 tonnes fresh weight of grass silage. The feed energy ‘restriction’ can occur in various ways, depending on the ‘quality’ or dry matter digestibility (DMD) of the grass silage available, e.g. by offering moderate ‘quality’ grass silage (65-68% DMD) to appetite, “diluting” the energy value of good ‘quality’ (e.g. 70%+ DMD) silage with straw and offering that to appetite, or by restricting the amount of good ‘quality’ silage offered daily. Where the amount of feed is restricted it is important that feeding space is adequate such that all cows can eat at the same time. If cows are not in good BCS, their feed energy intake cannot be restricted and they must be fed to ‘requirements’, e.g. allowed free access to good ‘quality’ silage and/or supplemented with concentrate, as appropriate. All cows should be offered an appropriate dry cow mineral/vitamin for at least six weeks pre-calving.

Health of suckler calves depends on minimising their exposure to disease and maximising their defence against disease. As calves are born without a fully functional immune system, because the bovine placenta prevents in utero transfer of immunoglobulins (Ig) or antibodies from the cow to the calf, they depend on the passive immunity provided through absorption of Ig from colostrum (first milk) from the cow until their own immune system is fully developed.

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BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

SUCKLER COW FEEDING AND CALF HEALTH

In addition to cow feed costs, management of BCS has implications for colostrum and milk yield, reproductive performance, health and well-being and, in extreme cases, calving difficulty. Many factors influence the incidence of calving difficulty but calf birth weight and internal pelvic area of the cow account for most of the variation. As cow BCS increases above a moderate level, calving difficulty can increase because fat is deposited in the pelvic area, thereby reducing the size of the pelvic canal. Very thin cows also have increased calving problems and increased calf mortality due to insufficient strength to withstand the birth process and giving birth to weak, non-vigorous calves. Low levels of feeding during the last one-third of pregnancy will not result in predictable effects on calf birth weight or calving difficulty. Health of suckler calves depends on minimising their exposure to disease and maximising their defence against disease. As calves are born without a fully functional immune system, because the bovine placenta prevents in utero transfer of immunoglobulins (Ig) or antibodies from the cow to the calf, they depend on the passive immunity provided through absorption of Ig from colostrum (first milk) from the cow until their own immune system is fully developed. Calf passive immunity depends primarily on the colostrum Ig mass (volume x Ig concentration) consumed, coupled with the Ig absorption capacity of the calf; factors affecting these parameters impacts on the immune status of suckler calves. In particular, factors that prolong the duration between birth and first suckling, such as calving difficulty, negatively affect calf passive immunity.

The ability of the calf to absorb Ig starts to decline quickly after birth. Consequently, early consumption of sufficient high-quality colostrum is the first and most important line of defence. Ideally, calves should suckle the cow to satiation as soon as possible after birth. In situations where this is not feasible, research at Teagasc, Grange has shown that feeding the calf 5% of its birth weight e.g. ~2 litres of colostrum for a 40 kg calf, within 1 hour or so of birth, with subsequent suckling of the dam (or a second feed) 6 to 8 hours later, ensures adequate transfer of immunity. First-milking colostrum should be given priority as the Ig concentration of second-milking colostrum is only half that of first-milking colostrum. Colostrum yield is usually higher in cow breed types with higher milk production potential, in mature cows compared to heifers (first-calvers) and in cows that are not excessively thin or not severely feed-restricted before calving. More ‘targeted’ passive immunity in suckler calves can be achieved through vaccination of the pregnant cow against particular diseases.

A recent large-scale DAFM-funded study carried out by Teagasc Grange evaluated the passive immune status and health of Irish suckler calves. Results showed that only ca. 30% of calves had ‘High’ immunity, 50% had ‘Medium’ immunity and 20% had ‘low’ or very inadequate levels of immunity. Calves in the ‘Low’ immunity category were significantly more likely to be treated for disease than those in the ‘Medium’ or ‘High’ categories. These results suggest that more emphasis on colostrum management is needed on Irish suckler beef farms.

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BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

FEATURE ARTICLE A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY WHEN MATED TO A DAIRY COW Donagh Berry 1 , Ross Evans 2 , Fiona Hely 3 , Peter Amer 3 , Michelle Judge 1 , Tom Condon 1 & Andrew Cromie 2 Summary • A dairy-beef index ranks beef bulls for use on dairy cows based on their estimated genetic potential to produce profitable, high quality cattle, born with minimal repercussions on subsequent performance of the dairy dam • Such an index should include traits related to calving performance, efficiencies of production, carcass merit (i.e., yield and quality) as well as addressing current and futuristic societal demands • Preliminary analyses reveal substantial gains in calf suitability for beef production can be achieved through selection on an index while meeting the requirements of dairy farmers for ease of calving, compared with the more traditional narrow focus on shorter gestation length and easy calving bulls with no consideration of the finishing qualities of the resulting calf. • An additional reporting metric can also be derived to identify bulls that have good evidence that they will be either low or moderate risk to mate with heifers. 1 Teagasc, AGRIC, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, 2 ICBF, Bandon, Co. Cork, 3 AbacusBio, Dunedin, New Zealand

Introduction The expanding dairy herd, coupled with the ever-improving reproductive performance of the national dairy herd imply a) a greater quantity of slaughtered animals in Ireland will originate from dairy herds and, b) a demand for a tool that ranks beef bulls based on suitability for use in a dairy herd. Such a ranking system should ideally rank bulls on estimated genetic potential to produce a quality high-value carcass with minimal repercussions on the milk, health and reproductive performance of the dairy cow but also that the resulting carcass can be produced efficiently. Breeding indexes have been successfully used globally in a multitude of species, including both dairy and beef cattle to achieve balanced gains in performance. For example, the genetic gain achieved since the deployment of the dairy EBI in 2001 has been cumulatively worth €1.72 billion to the Irish Agri- Food sector.

The expanding dairy herd, coupled with the ever improving reproductive efficiency in Irish dairy cows, necessitate an easy-to-use tool to aid dairy farmers in identifying a suitable beef bull that will produce high quality calves for sale but without negatively impacting cow performance.

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A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY

Construction of a breeding goal Three criteria need to be fulfilled for a trait to be considered in a breeding goal:

1. Importance: traditionally the metric of importance in breeding goals was exclusively monetary-based– in more recent years, however, the meaning of importance has expanded to also consider societal and environmental importance. Traits of societal and environmental importance in cattle include animal well- being (e.g., polledness) and greenhouse gas emissions 2. Genetic variability: breeding programs exploit the fact that there is variability in traits that are under genetic control although the extent of this control varies per trait 3. Measurable: either the trait itself needs to be measurable in a large population, or should be linked with trait(s) measurable in large populations. Ideally the trait(s) should bemeasurable at low cost and, if possible, early in life. The traits and sub-indexes explicitly included in the Irish national dairy and beef breeding goals are in Figure 2. Each index is made up of several components each affecting the respective farm profit either through increasing revenue or reducing costs. Such indexes are constantly under review; the list of constituent traits and their respective emphasis has changed 10 times in the dairy EBI since its introduction in 2001. Such revisions are necessary to ensure the index is always up-to-date and pertinent to future production environments.

Figure 2. Relative emphasis of the different subindexes in the dairy economic breeding index (EBI), the beef replacement index and the beef terminal index

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BEEF HEALTHCHECK NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION

A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY

Dairy Beef index Traits that could be considered as part of an index to rank beef bulls for use on dairy cows are in Table 1. Data and the underlying genetics research on several of these traits is already completed and ready for deployment with research on-going on other traits. Research is also underway on the relative economic importance (i.e., revenue versus costs) of the component traits. Calving performance traits The importance of calving performance to the dairy farmer is obvious. In an ICBF survey of 271 Irish beef (173) and dairy (98) farmers, the importance of calving difficulty was rated highly. Genetic differences among animals contribute up to one third of the variability in observed calving performance traits (Table 1) and thus breeding programs can be used to improve calving performance metrics in the national dairy herd. The impact of calving difficulty on subsequent performance in dairy cows is well established and therefore an easy-calving bull is desired. In the ICBF survey, the unfavourable economic repercussions of calving difficulty were rated more important by dairy farmers than by beef farmers. When asked, dairy farmers using beef bulls were less happy with their level of calving difficulty than dairy farmers not using beef bulls. Costs associated with calving difficulty include additional labour, veterinary costs, cowmortality, compromised cow reproductive performance and survival, and reduced milk yield; costs associated with calf mortality are captured within the calf mortality trait included in the index. Short gestation length is a crucial component of ensuring the dairy cow calves early in the subsequent calving season to maximise profit; this is particularly important for a dairy-beef index where beef bulls tend, on average, to be used on later calving dairy cows. In dairying, every one day delay in calving date costs, on average, €3.86; hence a bull with a five day longer genetic merit estimate for gestation length will be penalised €19.30 for that lactation but of course the effect of delayed calving can persist for all remaining lactations. The impact of breeding for shorter gestation length on calf mortality and vigour are negated by the simultaneous consideration of calf mortality and vigour in a breeding objective. The opportunity cost of calf mortality is also obvious; over the last 10 years, the average value of a 14-day old spring-born calf from a Holstein-Friesian dam was €188.02. Costs such as labour and milk replacer, however, are incurred by the dairy farmer to produce a 14-day old calf for sale and therefore must be included in the economic value. Efficiency traits Consideration of efficiency, either feed intake or environmental footprint, must include the entire lifetime of the animal. While feed intake is measured only over a relatively short period of an animal’s lifetime, total lifetime feed intake can be extrapolated using knowledge of age at slaughter. The same is true for environmental footprint; animal methane emissions are of primary concern for breeding programs. Genetic evaluations already exist for feed intake in Irish beef bulls and research has just begun, through the GREENBREED project, to collect individual animal methane emissions. Research on genetic evaluations for age at slaughter is at an advanced stage with considerable inter-animal genetic differences detected even when corrected to the same carcass weight and fat score. Reducing age at slaughter through breeding is a much easier approach than trying to reduce feed intake per day; the extent of inter-animal genetic variability is similar for both traits but data on age at slaughter is routinely available at no cost for all slaughtered animals. While the value of an extra kg of feed is known, no monetary value currently exists for environmental footprint. However, breeding programs operate with a long time horizon and there is a chance that someday greater methane emissions will incur a financial penalty.

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A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY

Carcass traits Given the existence of heritable genetic variability in carcass-related traits (Table 1), genetic evaluations are currently undertaken for carcass weight, conformation and fat score, the latter two characterised by the EUROP carcass classification system. Using a population of 662 dissected beef carcasses, Teagasc research estimated a correlation of 0.85 between this EUROP classification system and carcass meat proportion. Hence, the EUROP carcass classification explains only 73% of the variability in saleable meat yield and thus scope for improvement in the precision of the genetic evaluations possibly exists. Moreover, the EUROP classification system attempts to predominantly guessestimate yield and not quality. Research is underway to 1) evaluate alternative technologies to more accurately predict carcass yield with the resulting predictions having potential use in genetic evaluations, and 2) generate the largest database globally on meat tenderness metrics of animals with the objective of generating accurate genetic evaluations for meat tenderness. While the monetary value of improving carcass weight and EUROP is known, less is known about the monetary value of improving meat quality. Consumers can, however, take up to 3 months to purchase beef after a bad eating experience and thus there is monetary value for tenderness and other quality attributes. Societal traits The intensifying interest among the modern-day consumers in the origin of their food necessitates breeding programs to take cognisance of current and impending concerns. Moreover, the number of injuries and fatalities on Irish farms, largely attributable to livestock, demands action; because docility is partly under genetic control (Table 1), then breeding programs may offer a complementary solution to improving animal temperament. Polledness, which is important for animal and operator safety, is being ever-more scrutinised by consumers, particularly so when breeds, but also some animals within breeds, are naturally polled. Monetary costs also exist for polledness such as those associated with labour, medicinal treatment and equipment (depreciation); any potential impact in stunted animal growth is captured elsewhere in the index.

% under genetic control

Sub-index

Trait

Calving difficulty Gestation length

10% 35%

CALVING

Calf mortality Calf vigour Feed intake

2%

Under research

33%

EFFICIENCY

Environmental footprint

Under research

Age at slaughter Carcass weight

13% 35% 35% 35%

Carcass conformation

CARCASS

Carcass fat

Ability to meet carcass specs

Under research

Meat quality

16% 20%

Docility

SOCIETAL

Polled 100% Table 1. List of traits and their sub-indexes which could make up a dairy-beef breeding index.

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A DAIRY-BEEF INDEX TO RANK BEEF BULLS ON PROFITABILITY

Adaptation for trading animals? Scope exists to use an adapted version of the dairy-beef index as the unit of currency when trading animals. Adaptation is required, for example because once the calf is born (i.e., when being sold), the monetary costs of calving performance are already realised and therefore are of limited interested to the purchaser. Because the remaining traits are all highly heritable, this means that the genetic merit of the animal relates closely to it subsequent performance credentials. Moreover, it is the index value of the calf which is important and not that of the sire; this is because a) only half the genes of the calf originated from the sire with the other half being inherited from the dam, and b) it is a random half of genes which is inherited for the sire and thus paternal half-sib progeny (i.e., animals from the same sire) can have considerably different index values. Access to low-cost DNA screening tools provides a strategy to 1) verify parentage of each calf, 2) verify breed composition, and 3) generate more accurate estimates of genetic merit for that calf. This DNA-based estimate can be supplemented with ancillary information such as calf gender, heterosis level, and dam parity to predict, more accurately, the expected total merit of the animal. Such a technique should aid in identifying animals, at a young age, most suitable for different production systems and markets. Conclusions The expanding dairy herd, coupled with the ever improving reproductive efficiency in Irish dairy cows, necessitate an easy-to-use tool to aid dairy farmers in identifying a suitable beef bull that will produce high quality calves for sale but without negatively impacting cow performance. Such an index must be applicable across breed and should ideally consider traits relevant to the beef herd as much as those relevant to the dairy herd. The objective during development of this new dairy beef index has been to identify bulls that, on average, produce efficient progeny with good carcass credentials born with minimal fuss to the dam and farmer. The index can also form part of the sire advice system taking cognisance of the cow-level factors such as date of calving, previous experience with calving difficulty and cow parity. Acknowledgements Research underpinning the component traits and construction of the dairy-beef index has been part-funded from the VistaMilk SFI Centre, GREENBREED and the MTI.

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FEATURE ARTICLE

Clean Cattle – Healthy Food

Joe Ryan, Meat Industry Ireland

T he Irish beef processing industry is constantly focussed on the production of a high quality, safe product, to the highest international standards. In the marketplace, food safety is an absolute. The reputational and economic cost of a serious food safety incident could have massive negative implications for our entire sector. One constant challenge faced by the beef industry is the potential for pathogenic contamination of meat during the dressing process. In this context, it is essential that cattle, presented for slaughter, are clean and dry and meet with the Department of Agriculture’s Clean Livestock Policy (CLP). A constant threat for our business is the risk of pathogen contamination and particularly contamination with E Coli . The major channel whereby this can occur is through cross- contamination from dirty hides onto the surface of carcases. Avoiding hide-to-carcass contamination is therefore a crucial meat safety issue and industry invests significant resources in ensuring hygienic carcase dressing. It is an area that requires continuous improvement by both farmers and the meat industry. All stakeholders in the industry must do all that is possible within their control to minimise the risks. Ruminant animals, cattle inparticular, canharbour EColi O157 and other VTEC (verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli ) in their faeces. These animals may harbour and shed VTEC E Coli while remaining healthy or exhibiting only mild signs of infection. VTEC E Coli survive well in the farm environment. Sources of contamination include water, organic agricultural materials (i.e. animal manure and slurry), feed and farm surfaces. Measures to control the spread of VTEC E Coli on the farm include the provision of safe feed and water to animals as well as good housing management and hygiene practices. Practical risk reduction measures must be adopted at farm level. This means presenting animals for slaughter that have clean dry hides. The greater the level of faecal contamination on a hide, the greater the risk of cross contamination. Beef finishers need to ensure that all aspects of their winter finishing processes are designed to ensure the minimum

A constant threat for our business is the risk of pathogen contamination and particularly contamination with E Coli. The major channel whereby this can occur is through cross- contamination from dirty hides onto the surface of carcases. Avoiding hide- to-carcass contamination is therefore a crucial meat safety issue and industry invests significant resources in ensuring hygienic carcase dressing.

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CLEAN CATTLE – HEALTHY FOOD

levels of contamination on the animals’ hides. The situation has not improved in recent years and therefore requires urgent attention and action. The key factors that affect contamination levels of hides of animals in sheds are ventilation, diet, housing, husbandry, transport and pre-sale management. Hauliers and livestock transporters also need to ensure that animals do not become dirty or wet while in transit to the abattoir. The appropriate design and operation of trailers as well as the loading and off-loading practices play an important role in the cleanliness and dryness of animals on arrival at the abattoir. Farmers should insist on good practice in the transport of their animals. Teagasc and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) have produced a number of guidance documents for farmers highlighting the importance of clean livestock supply and important tips for farmers in this regard. It is essential that all producers are fully aware of their responsibilities to send animals to slaughter in a clean and dry condition. Farmers can also talk to their beef processor for advice.

http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2008/849/BestPractice_CleanCattle.pdf http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2005/855/ProducingCleanCattle.pdf https://www.fsai.ie/resources_publications.html

Under the EU legislation, farmers are food business operators (FBO) too and must remember that as food suppliers, they have a very important role in food safety along with processors and distributors. The supply of clean dry cattle minimises the potential risk to human health, contributes to the production of safe meat, has a positive impact on the shelf-life of meat and ultimately is crucial for continued consumer confidence. It is also essential for the future development of the Irish beef industry, and the ability of the sector to maintain and expand access to premium international markets.

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