20180216 AFD 2018 FINAL

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


AHI gratefully acknowledges the financial and other contributions of our stakeholders.

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

Animal Health Ireland, 4-5 The Archways, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, N41 WN27 Phone 071 9671928 Email nmorgan@animalhealthireland.ie




The Strategic Plan (2015-2017) set out the following four strategic priorities for the organisation:



Ensure the continued delivery of the priority programmes and the other work areas identified in the 2012-2014 Strategic Plan


Review the fitness for purpose of the funding model and reconfigure as appropriate

Review the fitness for purpose of the corporate governance structures, including the process of appointment to the Board, and reconfigure as appropriate



Develop new programmes to support the beef sector and strengthen the horizontal supports to all programmes


STRATEGIC PRIORITY 1 Ensure the continued delivery of the PRIORITY PROGRAMMES and the OTHER WORK AREAS identified in the 2012-2014 Strategic Plan PRIORITY PROGRAMMES A. BVD B. CellCheck C. Johne’s disease D. IBR Delivery against the following programmes and work activities within STRATEGIC PRIORITY 1 is presented: OTHER WORK E. CalfCare F. Biosecurity G. Parasite Control

A. BVD | PROGRAMME OBJECTIVE: To eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) from the national cattle herd by year end 2020

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Continue the downward trend in the prevalence of BVDV at both animal and herd level at a rate consistent with achievement of the programme objective.

Outcome: The prevalence of infection at both animal (Figure 1) and herd (Figure 2) level has continued to decline through this period, to 0.10% and 2.0% respectively. This represents a reduction of approximately six-fold relative to 2013, the first year of the national programme. Based on the estimated annual losses due to BVDV of €102 million 1 prior to the programme, the net benefit to industry for 2017 was estimated to be €75 million.





























2015 2016 2017



2015 2016 2017



Figure 2. Animal-level prevalence (%) of PI calves born during each year of the programme.

Figure 1. Prevalence (%) of herds with PI calves born during each year of the programme.

1. Stott AW, et al. (2012) Predicted costs and benefits of eradicating BVDV from Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal; doi:10.1186/2046- 0481-65-12.



Objective 2: Implement a sustainable resolution to the problem of the retention of persistently infected (PI) animals by a minority of farmers.

Outcome: According to a detailed study 2 , the frequency and duration of retention of PI calves was reduced in 2015 relative to the first two years of the programme, when it had been a particular problem in beef herds (Table 1, Figures 3 and 4).

Year of birth

Retention length (days)











5,755 2,548

43.7 19.3

5,208 2,062

55.7 22.1

4,906 1016

70.3 14.6

50-120 121-150 151-180 181-365

418 344

3.2 2.6

314 196 922 539 103

3.4 2.1 9.9 5.8 1.1

95 75

1.4 1.1 1.7 0.0

1,618 2,482

12.3 18.8


>365 Alive Total








Table 1. Number of BVD+ animals born in Ireland each year by length of retention until recorded date of death or the number of BVD+ animals still alive at 31 December 2015, illustrating a downward trend in the duration of retention.

Figure 3. Number of BVD+ animals alive at each month by birth year (cohort) in beef and dairy herds (2013-2015).

2. Graham DA, et al. (2015) Survival time of calves with positive BVD virus results born during the voluntary phase of the Irish eradication programme. Prev Vet Med; 119:123–133.


Figure 4. Survival curves of BVD+ animals from the time of birth by birth cohort in beef and dairy herds.

In2015, work began todevelop an IrishBVDModel 3 in collaborationwith theHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and with input from the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis (CVERA) at University College Dublin and supported by data extracts from ICBF. A model output assuming the level of retention seen in 2015 indicated that while prevalence of PI births would continue to decline, the target of eradication by 2020 was not achievable (Figure 5), whereas it remained achievable if the issue of retention was resolved (Figure 6).

Figure 5. Model prediction of the number of newborn PI calves from August 2016 (‘now’) onwards, based on PI retention at 2015 levels.

Figure 6. Model prediction of the number of newborn PI calves from August 2016 (‘now’) onwards, based on all PI calves being removed 7 weeks after birth from 2017 onwards.

3. Thulke H-H, et al. (2018) Eradicating BVD, reviewing Irish programme data and model predictions to support prospective decision making. Prev Vet Med; doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2017.11.017.



Based on thesemodel outputs, the BVDIG introduced a series of programme enhancements for 2017, including: • Increased levels of financial support for removal of PI calves, but a shorter period (3 weeks) within which calves had to be removed to attain the higher level of payment • Automated restriction of herds which retain PIs (present for more than 5 weeks after the date of the initial test)

• Notification of herds whose neighbours retain PIs to enable them to optimise biosecurity

• Limiting confirmatory testing to blood samples taken by veterinary practitioners

• Veterinary investigation of herds with PI births.

These measures have had significant impact on the level of retention. At the end of 2017, there were only 69 PIs alive nationally, in 54 herds, of which only 22 herds were retaining PIs (alivemore than five weeks after the date of the initial test). As a result, a number of counties had no PIs at the end of 2017 (Carlow, Laois, Dublin, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Longford), while several others contained only a single PI (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Map showing distribution of all PI animals born 2013-2017 that remained alive at the end of 2017.


Objective 3: Develop and implement the infrastructure, including the legislative framework, needed to establish Negative Herd Status (NHS) and put in place lower-cost monitoring options for herds which qualify for this status.

Outcome: The requirements for a herd to achieve NHS were as follows: 1. To have been tag-testing for three years 2. All animals in the herd to have a negative BVD status (on the basis of either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ results); 3. The absence of any animal(s) deemed to be persistently infected with BVD virus from the herd in the 12 months preceding the acquisition of NHS. In 2015, only those herds which had participated in the voluntary programme in 2012 could satisfy Requirement 1. A protocol was established to determine which of these herds had also complied with the guidelines for the voluntary phase of the programme, and on this basis approximately 6,000 herds were awarded NHS at the start of 2015. The infrastructure to manage the assignment and maintenance of NHS was developed on the ICBF database. Based on the recommendation of the TWG in 2015, and supported in 2017 by the outcome of the modelling work described under Objective 2, a decision was taken to maintain tissue tag testing as the only surveillance method, rather than introducing a serological option. As a consequence, a legislative framework to establish NHS was not required and therefore was not developed. However, reduced cost monitoring for herds with NHS was made available through those laboratories designated for testing by RT-PCR due to the feasibility of increasing the number of samples tested in a pool due to the reduced likelihood of obtaining a positive result. By the end of 2015 approximately 49,000 (59%) of approximately 83,000 breeding herds had achieved NHS, with this figure rising to almost 65,000 (78%) by the end of 2016 and 71,000 (86%) by the end of 2017, at which time the programme database held a status on 99.4% of the 5.8 million cattle in these herds. The BVD status of the remaining 0.6% (~36,000) is not known. While around one third of these were recently born calves still going through the testing process, a further third comprised calves that have been registered for more than 35 days for which there is no valid test, while most of the remainder comprised cattle born before the start of the compulsory programme in 2013. The presence of small numbers of these untested animals is the reason that approximately 10,000 herds had not acquired NHS at the end of 2017 (with the balance of herds being ineligible due to their inability to satisfy Requirement 3).



Objective 4: Develop and implement an infrastructure providing prompt veterinary investigation and resolution of disease outbreaks.

Outcome: In 2015 DAFM issued a request for tender for a Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH). Following a public procurement exercise in 2015, AHI was awarded a contract by DAFM to develop a Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH) to deliver farm-specific advice by trained veterinary practitioners in respect of a number of diseases, including BVD. By the end of 2017 over 500 practitioners (Figure 8; click here for a full listing) had been trained in the conduct of BVD herd investigations. In parallel, significant development was undertaken on the programme database provided by ICBF to support these investigations

and a customer relationship management (CRM) system developed by AHI to manage the allocation and recording of investigation outcomes. These investigations, funded through the Rural Development Plan (2014-2020), sought to review

herd biosecurity, identify a plausible source or sources of infection, to ensure that the herd was left free from BVDV and agree farm- specific biosecurity measures to prevent its re-introduction. In 2016, approximately 1,100 owners of 2,542 (43%) positive herds requested a TASAH investigation. In 2017 these investigations were made compulsory, with a requirement that they be completed within 3 months of the index case. By the end of 2017, over 1,400 investigations, representing 90% of those assigned, had been completed. The findings from these investigations are reported by the investigating veterinary practititioner to the CRM system, providing a valuable dataset. Analysis of these results indicated that in 2017 the majority (89%) of herd owners were provided with three biosecurity recommendations, with these most commonly relating to the risks of introduction of virus associated with personnel (including the farmer), the purchase of cattle, contact with neighbouring cattle at pasture and the

Figure 8. Locations of trained veterinary practitioners under the BVD TASAH Programme

role of vaccination. One or more plausible sources of infection were identified in 74% of herds, with a single plausible source identified most commonly (41% of herds). The most commonly identified sources of infection were contact at boundaries, the introduction of transiently infected animals without adequate quarantine, retained PI animals, personnel (including the farmer) in the absence of appropriate hygiene measures and trojan dams. These data provide a basis for targeted biosecurity advice to prevent accidental introduction of BVD virus to herds that are currently free of infection.


B. CELLCHECK | PROGRAMME OBJECTIVE: To facilitate the Irish dairy industry to continue to improve milk quality, such that 75% of the milk supplied by Irish farmers will have an SCC of 200,000 cells/mL or less by year end 2020. PRIORITY PROGRAMMES


STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan: Objective 1: Through the continued implementation of existing programme measures and the development and implementation of new measures, enable the continued improvement in national SCC performance at a rate consistent with the achievement of the programme objective. Outcome: Clear progress has continued in the udder health of Irish herds since the commencement of the CellCheck programme in 2011. Consecutive years of bulk tank SCC data show that the proportion of herds and milk volume nationally with an annual average SCC <200,000 cells/mL has increased from 39% to 62%, and 46% to 67% respectively, between 2013 and 2016 (Figure 9), while the average national SCC has decreased steadily to 186,000 in 2016 (Figure 10).

Figure 9. Proportion of herds and milk volume with SCC <200,000 cells/mL.

Figure 10. Annual average SCC (2007-2016).



Based on economic research completed in the early years of the CellCheck programme, and the actual improved SCC performance in 2015 relative to 2013 alone, the increased milk value was worth almost €38 million to the industry; approximately €11 million to processors, and €27 million to farmers. Analysis of national sales data for intra-mammary products also shows a positive trend, with a reduction in the ‘defined course dose’ (DCDvet) for in-lactation products, which indicates a reduction in the number of mastitis treatments administered during lactation 4 . This analysis looked at sales data from 2003 to 2015, with DCDvet per 100 animals per year reducing to 46.6 in 2015 from a high of 69.9 in 2008 (Figure 11).



Defined course dose per 100 animals per year






2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

Figure 11. Estimated on-farm usage of in-lactation intramammary antimicrobials in Ireland (2003-2015).

Objective 2: Consolidate and continue the collation and analysis of data through the national SCC database to provide a complete time series of data from 2011- 2017.

Outcome: One of the key achievements of the programme has been the establishment of a national SCC database, in partnership with DAFM and milk processors. This dataset captures bulk tank SCC data for more than 95% of milk supplied in Ireland. This has provided the data to monitor trends at national level (Figures 9, 10) and to produce benchmarking reports for individual processors. To date, the dataset contains four consecutive years of data (2013-2016), with a request for 2017 data to be issued by DAFM in spring 2018. This will be followed by a request for 2011 and 2012 data to complete the dataset.

4. More, SJ, et al (2017). The use of national-level data to describe trends in intramammary antimicrobial usage on Irish dairy farms from 2003 to 2015. J. Dairy Sci. 100, 6400–6413. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-12068.


Objective 3: Facilitate the agreement, adoption and promotion by all stakeholders of annual SCC reduction goals, which will enable the programme to meet or surpass the current programme objective.

Outcome: Work with the Industry Consultation Group, reconvened in 2017 as the CellCheck Implementation Group, resulted in the establishment of industry-agreed key performance indicators (annual increase of 5% points in herds <200K and decrease of 1% point in herds >400K) to monitor progress in the udder health of the national herd, using the national SCC database as an objective measure of change.

Objective 4: Develop and implement an infrastructure for additional service provider training to enable investigation and resolution of farm-specific mastitis problems.

Outcome: The focus of CellCheck training and activity for 2016 and 2017 has been the coordination and delivery of CellCheck Farmer Workshops, as a compulsory component of the Dairy Knowledge Transfer Programme. This resulted in the diversion of resources to support the delivery of more than 270 workshops to around 3,500 farmers under the KT programme, in advance of the development of additional service provider training. Evaluation of the industry has also identified that there is currently sufficient problem-solving capacity. Therefore the focus has been on development of a Mastitis Investigation Tool on the ICBF database to enable more detailed farm-level investigation, with this being due for completion in mid-2018. In addition, work continues with industry stakeholders to develop and pilot a delivery mechanism of farm-specific mastitis investigations by those service provider teams currently skilled in problem-solving.





C. JOHNE’S DISEASE | PROGRAMME OBJECTIVE: To establish a voluntary national programme for Johne’s disease which, - enables participating herd owners to have increasing confidence in the absence of infection in their herds and to achieve significant control or elimination where present, which, - underpins the quality of Irish dairy and beef produce in the international marketplace

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Refine the technical elements of the control programme, based on a robust evaluation of the outcomes of the pilot phase.

Outcome: 1,899 herdowners supplying 13 different processors or co-operatives enrolled in the voluntary Johne’s Disease Pilot Dairy Control Programme (Pilot programme), based on whole herd screening tests and a veterinary risk assessment andmanagement plan (VRAMP). Over 550 veterinary practitioners were trained by AHI as approved veterinary practitioners (AVPs) to deliver VRAMPs, which were funded by DAFM. Results from almost 3,000 VRAMPs were reported to the programme database provided by ICBF and available for subsequent analysis.


2015 2016

Herds enrolled by year

1,821 1,301 1,214

VRAMP’s completed (numbers)




VRAMP’s completed (% of herds enrolled)

85% 75% 33%

Total number and percentage of herds completing VRAMPs by year.

Compared to previous herd screening activity in Ireland, increased testing of the national dairy herd was carried out during the life of the Pilot programme, with results for 165,566 ELISA blood tests and 219,272 ELISA milk tests reported to the database. The majority of participating herds received financial support towards the cost of testing from their processor. Data from both VRAMPs and testing were analysed to contribute to refinement of the technical elements of the programme, the outcomes of which result in a number of published studies 5-11 , with others in preparation. 5. Botaro BG, et al. (2017) Associations between paratuberculosis ELISA results and test-day records of cows enrolled in the Irish Johne’s Disease Control Program. J Dairy Sci;100. doi:10.3168/jds.2017-12749. 6. Devitt C, et al. (2016) Herd owners’ experiences of a voluntary Johne’s disease eradication programme in Ireland. Vet Rec;179. doi:10.1136/vr.103815. 7. Devitt C, et al. (2017) Veterinarian experiences of a voluntary Johne’s disease eradication programme in Ireland. Vet Rec; submitted. 8. McAloon CG, et al. (2016) Bayesian estimation of prevalence of paratuberculosis in dairy herds enrolled in a voluntary Johne’s Disease Control Programme in Ireland. Prev Vet Med;128:95–100. 9. McAloon CG, et al. (2017) Relative importance of herd-level risk factors for probability of infection with paratuberculosis in Irish dairy herds. J Dairy Sci;100. doi:10.3168/jds.2017-12985. 10. McAloon CG, et al. (2017) Johne’s disease in the eyes of Irish cattle farmers: A qualitative narrative research approach to understanding implications for disease management. Prev Vet Med;141:7–13. 11. More SJ, et al. (2015) Evaluation of testing strategies to identify infected animals at a single round of testing within dairy herds known to be infected with Mycobacterium avium ssp . paratuberculosis. J Dairy Sci;98. doi:10.3168/jds.2014-8211.


These refinements led to the development of a two-pathway approach (for test-positive and test-negative herds) in the Irish Johne’s Control Programme (IJCP) launched in Autumn 2017, based on the outcomes of whole herd screening tests and the implementation of VRAMPs, allowing herds to demonstrate an increasing confidence of freedom from Johne’s disease, expressed through a herd assurance score (HAS).

Objective 2: Subject to the outcome of the evaluation of the pilot phase of the programme and the agreement of stakeholders, establish a national voluntary control programme for Johne’s disease.

Outcome: Taking into account the technical refinements arising from the pilot programme, a voluntary Irish Johne’s Control Programme (IJCP) was agreed and Phase One of the programme commenced in September 2017, with enrolment open to all herds that took part in the pilot programme. Significant work has been undertaken by AHI to develop our customer relationship management system to manage registrations and payments related to the programme. The IJCP has the following four objectives: 1. Enhance the ability of participating farmers to keep their herds clear of Johne’s disease (JD)

2. Enable participating farmers to reduce the level of infection in their herds, where present

3. Provide additional reassurance to the marketplace in relation to Ireland’s efforts to control Johne’s disease

4. Improve calf health and farm biosecurity in participating farms.

Costs for the programme are shared between DAFM, processors and herdowners. Phase Two of the programme is due to commence in 2018, when enrolment will open to all herds, with a variety of different pathways by which herds may with the programme (Figure 12). A consultancy to clarify key details of Phase 2 was initiated in late 2017 and will report in 2018.



Programme Pathways Johne's Disease Control - A Shared Responsibility

National Surveillance (subject to consultancy)

Herds tested by AVP

Milk Processor recommendation





Farming Organisation promotion and recommendation

Infected herds in pilot programme



Irish Johne's Control Programme 1. VRAMP 2. Whole herd testing 3. Herd Assurance Score

Test-negative herds in pilot programme


AHI Communication activities and website




Unknown status herds seeking a Herd Assurance Score

Education and awareness activities (Biosecurity & Dairy Hygiene)

Figure 12. Pathways to participation in Phase 2 of the IJCP.

PROGRAMME COORDINATION 1. Keep herds clear of JD 2. Reduce the level of infection in infected herds 3. Additional reassurance to the marketplace 4. Improve calf health and farm biosecurity

Objective 3: Develop strategies for the control of Johne’s disease within the beef sector.

Outcome: Work has commenced on the development of a risk assessment and management planning tool for the beef industry.

Objective 4: Develop and implement an infrastructure providing prompt veterinary investigation and resolution of disease outbreaks.

Outcome: Ongoing training of veterinary practitioners as AVPs has continued during this period. In addition, an initial round of training of AVPs to deliver herd investigations funded through the Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH) under the Rural Development Programme was undertaken. In parallel, significant work has been put into developing dashboards on the programme database provided by ICBF to provide herdowners and AVPs with access to herd testing and VRAMP data through a Johne’s disease computer application (the JD Veterinary Dashboard). These dashboards will significantly enhance the ability of AVPs to conduct herd investigations.


D. IBR | PROGRAMME OBJECTIVE: To eradicate infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR/BoHV-1) from the national herd, subject to a positive cost- benefit analysis and a mandate from AHI stakeholders PRIORITY PROGRAMMES


STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Develop a framework for a national control programme, consistent with the requirements for such programmes, as established in EU legislation.

Outcome: COMMISSION DECISION of 21 August 2007, amending Decision 2004/558/EC implementing Council Directive 64/432/EEC as regards additional guarantees for intra-Community trade in bovine animals relating to infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and the approval of the eradication programmes presented by certain Member States (2007/584/EC) is currently the key European legislation relating to IBR eradication. This lays down the testing regimes and associated conditions which are required for a national or regional eradication programme to be recognised and for the country or region to be awarded the additional guarantees available under Article 9 of COUNCIL DIRECTIVE of 26 June 1964 on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine (64/432/EEC) to assist with achieving eradication or, under Article 10 of the same directive, to maintain freedom once eradication has been achieved. The impact of these additional guarantees was demonstrated when the Belgian eradication was awarded Article 9 status in October 2014, resulting in the loss of the Belgian market for the export of dairy bull calves (over 20,000 exported in 2014, less than 500 in 2015).

Taking these requirements as a baseline, the IBR Technical Working Group has been working on options for a programme that would satisfy these requirements. These deliberations were greatly helped by a study visit, supported by the Golden Jubilee Trust, to Belgium and the Netherlands in 2015. This gave important insights into the programmes in both countries, with the Belgian programme being national in scale and recognised by the EU, whereas the Dutch programme is voluntary, but with significant uptake. A report on the visit was published subsequently. During this period, Regulation (EU) 2016/429, commonly referred to as the Animal Health Law, was published, giving legislative effect to the principles set out in the EU Animal Health Strategy (2007-2013). The new law will provide an increased focus on disease prevention, and a particular emphasis on the need


for improved biosecurity. It will also establish mechanisms to provide for a clear and balanced distribution of roles and responsibilities between competent authorities, EU institutions, the farming sector, animal owners and others, and it will develop a system of disease listing and categorisation as the basis for intervention by Member States. IBR, as well as BVD and Johne’s disease are currently being evaluated in this regard, and the TWG will take into account any relevant legislative changes regarding control and eradication of IBR.



To inform discussions within the TWG, and to encourage relevant research, the TWG has drawn up a list of key knowledge gaps, and has sought to progress the resolution of these, including through a funded laboratory analyst working in the National Reference Laboratory at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. Areas addressed or progressing to date have included the age-related prevalence of carriers in Irish dairy herds, changes in seroprevalence in vaccinating dairy herds (Figure 13), relative performance of diagnostic tests and sample types, trends in the herd-level prevalence of IBR in dairy herds based on bulk tank milk surveillance (noting an increase in herds testing negative on bulk tank milks in the Spring of 2016 and 2017 from 21% to 28%) and the potential role of deer as a reservoir species. The TWG has also been monitoring trends in IBR vaccine sales over this period, noting an increase of 27% between 2015 and 2017 to approximately 2.28 million doses. A small-scale pilot suckler herd eradication programme is under discussion for 2018. To finalise the development of these programme options, a recruitment process was initiated in the Q4 of 2017 for a PhD student to develop a national IBR model (similar to that in place for BVD) and for an IBR programme manager.

Figure 13. Change in age-related IBR seroprevalence over time in a vaccinating dairy herd based on testing of all animals aged one year old and above in 2011 and 2012 and two years and above in 2015. Bars indicate the numbers of animals in each age group at each sample point, while the dashed lines indicate the percentage seropositivity of each age group at each time. The results show that positive animals are found in older age groups at each successive round of testing, with only a small number of the oldest animals (6 years and above) positive in 2015, reflecting the removal of older positive animals each year and their replacement with uninfected heifers.


Objective 2: Complete a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) for a national IBR eradication programme. Taking into account the outcome of the CBA, seek a mandate from AHI stakeholders on whether or not to progress to a national eradication programme. Outcome: Foodwise 2025 contains the following text under Market Development/Animal Health status in relation to IBR: “Given the value of Ireland’s animal health status to the industry in terms of accessing export markets and producing high quality raw materials, the preservation and protection of this status must be supported by both public and private sector actors. There is therefore a need for greater focus on, and delivery of, improved animal health which provides both private and public goods and provides a rationale for public intervention, through public/private partnerships, to address animal health issues in a cohesive and coordinated way. In the absence of such a sustained coordinated approach, the industry could be held back from realising the benefits of addressing endemic contagious diseases and risks from exotic diseases.” Under the associated Recommendation: Continue to enhance and support Ireland’s animal health status and reputation for producing safe, high quality food, the following action is listed: ‘DAFM to support the carrying out an economic appraisal by Teagasc of the benefit/costs of implementing a compulsory national IBR eradication programme for consideration by AHI and its stakeholders with the expectation that if the outcome shows a favourable return on resource deployed that a national eradication programme will be initiated by 2019’. The analysis by Teagasc of the benefits of eradicating IBR was completed in Q3 of 2017. Ongoing work by the TWG will quantify the costs of each eradication option, forming the basis of a cost-benefit analysis of each and a subsequent consultation to seek a mandate to proceed to a national programme.

Objective3: Subject toamandate fromstakeholders, commence the implementationof anational communications strategy and other initial elements of the eradication programme.

Outcome: IBR has featured in the AHI communication strategy throughout this period, but with the focus on herd, rather than national-level control and eradication.






The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Develop and disseminate technical material on the quality and usage of calf milk replacers, to be available for spring 2016.

Outcome: The CalfCare Technical Working Group developed technical material on the quality and usage of calf milk

replacers (CMR) for rearing dairy replacement heifer calves which was published in January 2016. In addition, several existing CalfCare technical information leaflets on calf health management were reviewed and updated in line with current research.

Objective 2: Continue to deliver farmer information events on all aspects of calf rearing from birth to weaning.

Outcome: During the three year period of the Strategic Plan, 30 nationwide on-farm CalfCare eventswere organised by AHI, in conjunctionwith Teagasc and dairymilk processors.


The number of events requested by dairy processors increased each year, from 7 in 2015 to 9 in 2016 and 13 in 2017, with the number of processors requesting to hold events also increasing. Overall these events attracted an attendance of over 5,000 farmers. CalfCare TWG members contributed, attended and participated at these farmer events.

Objective 3: Engage with Teagasc, vets and other advisers through in-service training and other means to ensure consistency of message.

Outcome: To ensure consistency of message, CalfCare TWG engaged with farmers, stakeholders and veterinary professionals on the topic of calf health management by contributing to several AHI, stakeholder and freelance publications. Over the period of the Strategic Plan, CalfCare TWG members contributed to two peer-reviewed papers, one in the British Veterinary Association and one in the Irish Veterinary Journal 12-13 .

12. Hogan, I, et al. (2015). Comparison of rapid laboratory tests for failure of passive transfer in the bovine. Irish Vet. J. 68, 18. doi:10.1186/s13620-015-0047-0. 13. Hogan, I et al. (2016). Optimisation of the zinc sulphate turbidity test for the determination of immune status. Vet. Rec. 178, 169. doi:10.1136/vr.103401.





The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Complete information leaflets on (1) biocontainment, (2) managing a disease outbreak, and (3) contract rearing of replacement heifers.

Outcome: An information leaflet entitled ‘Preventing disease spread within your farm - biocontainment’ was developed. Work is ongoing on a leaflet on ‘Managing a Disease Outbreak’ which will be published in 2018. A leaflet on contract rearing of replacement heifers has not been developed yet, but the TWG contributed to the development of a successful researchproposal, “Characterisationof contract rearing in Ireland and associated biosecurity and animal disease risks and outcomes”, led by the Chairman of the TWG and in collaboration with other TWG members and AHI. Outputs from this project will inform the development of relevant information leaflets in due course.


Objective 2: Produce biosecurity guidelines on (1) high risk farm visitors, (2) leasing of dairy cows, and (3) vaccine handling and usage.

Outcome: The RDP-funded investigations conducted in 2016 and 2017 under the Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health into herds with calves persistently infected with BVD highlighted the role of indirect transmission by personnel as a potential pathway by which infection could be introduced onto farms. It was noteworthy that the farmer was identified as a potential source of infection almost as frequently as other personnel. These findings were reviewed by the Biosecurity TWG and the importance of implementing appropriate biosecurity measures to address these risks are routinely incorporated into key messages and communicated to farmers and service providers on an ongoing basis. Work is ongoing on an information leaflet on vaccination, with an anticipated publication date in 2018.

Objective 3: Contribute to the development of the biosecurity-related elements of the Rural Development Plan.

Outcome: Biosecurity and calf health are two of the targeted areas that must be completed in Year One as an Animal Health andManagement Measure within the Farm Improvement Plan of the dairy and beef Knowledge Transfer programme funded through the Rural Development Programme (2014-2020). This must be completed on the DAFM Animal Health Computer System (AHCS) by a DAFM-approved Knowledge Transfer Private Veterinary Practitioner and updated in each of the following two years click here for more information.



Objective 4: Develop a simple-to-use on-farm biosecurity audit tool.

Outcome: AHI is a partner in a research project led by Teagasc and co-ordinated by UCD that has been submitted to the DAFM 2017 Competitive Call for Research Proposals entitled ‘Surveillance Welfare and Biosecurity of Farmed Animals’. One of the objectives of this proposal is ‘To develop a biosecurity scoring system for dairy, pig and poultry farms’


The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: Complete information leaflets on bovine coccidiosis, a summary guide on parasitic diseases and seasonal, system-specific guidelines to parasite control on spring-calving beef and dairy farms. Outcome: New information leaflets were produced addressing each of these topics. In addition, leaflets on ‘Redwater- the facts’ and ‘ Neospora caninum - a guide for farmers and vets’ were developed. Objective 2: Provide support to the Beef HealthCheck programme (see Strategic Priority 4, page 24), including through the development of an agreed classification system for bovine livers in relation to liver fluke infection, the interpretation of programme results, the evaluation of the effectiveness of liver fluke control measures, and the development of improved liver fluke forecasting methods. Outcome: The TWG contributed to the development of the classification system which now forms the basis for the capture of standardized data within the Beef HealthCheck programme, the outputs of which are not contributing to the annual fluke forecasts. Further work is ongoing in this area and the implementation of appropriate control measures. Objective 3: Provide guidance on the responsible use of anthelmintics with particular emphasis on accurate weighing and dosing as a means of reducing the risk of anthelmintic resistance. Outcome: Work has commenced on a leaflet on Anthelmintic Resistance which draws attention to using correct dosage rates as one of the measures for slowing the development of resistance.







Review the fitness for purpose of the funding model and reconfigure as appropriate

Outcome: It was not possible to significantly reconfigure the funding model during this period. Reliance on subscriptions provided by private sector organisations and the matching of these to an agreed ceiling by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, continues to leave AHI very vulnerable to the loss or withdrawal of funding by individual stakeholders. The loss of even relatively modest amounts of stakeholder income, amplified by the consequent loss of matched Departmental funding, would have a dramatic impact on AHI’s ability to sustain current programmes and hence on the viability of the organisation itself. In each of the three years, subscription income did not match expenditure, with the balance being made up by grants, sponsorship, programme and service income (Figure 14). The modest surpluses in these years were used to offset a deficit position at the start of 2015 and to establish a strategic reserve. Recruitment of a Johne’s disease programme manager in 2016, and the development and launch of of the Irish Johne’s Control Programme were notable additional costs during this period. Financial constraints limited progress on the development of other programmes, particularly IBR.

1,000,000 1,200,000 1,400,000 1,600,000 1,800,000 2,000,000

Non-subscription Sub- other Sub- dairy Sub- beef DAFM

200,000 400,000 600,000 800,000




Figure 14. AHI income and expenditure by year (2015 to 2017). The amounts and sources of subscription income are shown, along with non-subscription income from grants, sponsorship, programme and service income. Total subscription income for each year is shown by the blue line, while total expenditure is shown by the red line.



During 2015, AHI consulted DAFM and other Members and Stakeholders, with a view to bringing forward proposals aimed at further strengthening and ensuring the continued fitness for purpose of the corporate governance of the organisation. It was intended that these proposals would establish the competencies and skills mix required of Directors, embody best practice in terms of corporate governance, bring greater transparency to the appointments process and provide a mechanism to allow for Members’ voices to be directly represented on the Board. It was not possible to achieve consensus on a way forward at that time, but AHI re-engaged in a consultation process in late 2017 with a view to bring recommendations to members in 2018. STRATEGIC PRIORITY 3 Review the fitness for purpose of the corporate governance structures, including the process of appointment to the Board, and reconfigure as appropriate


STRATEGIC PRIORITY 4 Develop new programmes to support the beef sector (Beef HealthCheck) and strengthen the horizontal supports to all programmes

BEEF HEALTHCHECK | STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES The following key strategic objectives were to be achieved in the lifetime of the current strategic plan:

Objective 1: To develop tools to assist farmers and their veterinary practitioners to control losses due to liver fluke and pneumonia through capture, analysis and reporting of abattoir data.

Outcomes: The Beef HealthCheck (BHC) programme was officially launched at the National Ploughing Championships in 2015 by Simon Coveney, Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. By the end of 2015 the programme had been rolled out in 9 meat plants with work on the programme at an advanced stage in the further plants, with a total of 18 plants and seven processors engaged with the programme by the end of 2016.

Following extensive discussions with both DAFM and the Parasite TWG, descriptors for liver and lung lesions were agreed, with these common descriptors now being used to record liver and lung lesions by Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) in all participating meat plants using touchscreen terminals. A ‘Beef HealthCheck Information leaflet for Temporary Veterinary Inspectors’ was developed. This formed the basis for a series of information meetings for TVIs held in each plant in advance of the roll out of the programme, with more than 150 veterinary practitioners attending these meetings in 2015 alone. To provide feedback to farmers, initially a batch level report was developed, with this being issued by meat factories with the remittance advice to farmers for every batch of cattle presented for slaughter (Figure 15). Subsequently, a standard format for transferring data from meat plants to ICBF was agreed, followed by the development of dashboards for herd owners and veterinary practitioners, allowing data for multiple batches of animals to be analysed and providing more tools to search and analyse Beef HealthCheck information at a herd level. Figure 15. Batch-level Beef HealthCheck Report. [DOWNLOAD]



Philip Carroll Chairman Meat Industry Ireland, Mike Magan Chairman AHI, Fiona Muldoon CEO FBD (Sponsor), Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Rebecca Carroll Programme Manager, AHI, Joe O’Flaherty CEO AHI, Padraig O’Sullivan ICBF attending the launch of BHC on-line in January 2017.

This BHC on-line element of the programme was formally launched in January 2017 by Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Beef HealthCheck Online can be accessed free of charge by farmers through the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) website. AHI developed a ‘Step-by-step guide to viewing Beef HealthCheck data on ICBF’ to help farmers access the information and share it with their veterinary practitioner click here .

A communication strategy was also developed. A Beef HealthCheck Newsletter has been published on a quarterly basis since 2015. In addition, a series of 10 National Knowledge Transfer-approved on-farm events, attended by 1,100 producers, were held in 2016 and 2017 in conjunction with meat processors and Teagasc. These addressed issues including preparing for a Bord Bia audit, feeding the suckler cow for a healthy calf, biosecurity in beef herds, parasite control at housing and nutrition of finishing cattle to avoid acidosis. 2017 was the first year that the programme was fully operational in terms of data transfer to ICBF. During the course of 2017, results for over 800,000 animals were received (approximately 65% of the national kill), of which 68% were beef animals and 32% dairy. Approximately 13% were classified as young bulls, while 1%, 41%, 18% and 27% were classified as bulls, steers, cows and heifers, respectively. Rebecca Carroll, AHI manager of the Beef HealthCheck programme, began a Masters in Veterinary Medicine in University College Dublin to investigate the prevalence of liver fluke lesions and the economic impact of these lesions on cattle performance, with initial results due in early 2018. This large volume of data allows trends over time and by location to be analysed and also contributes to the DAFM liver fluke forecast. [DOWNLOAD]


Fluke damage, either with or without the presence of live fluke, was the most commonly recorded abnormal finding, being present in a total of 20.9% of cattle. There was marked variation between animal classes in the proportion of animals with fluke damage overall and the proportion of animals in which live fluke were observed, being most common in cows in both cases (Figure 16).

10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 30.0 35.0 40.0 45.0 50.0



Figure 16. Prevalence of cattle (%) with liver damage attributed to liver fluke, including those in which live fluke were observed (green), overall and by class (YB, young bull; ST, steer; H, heifer; C, cow).





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Seasonal variations were also evident, both in the prevalence of live fluke and of fluke damage overall. In heifers, steers and young bulls, the prevalence of live fluke was higher earlier in the year (Figure 17), when cattle were presumed to have been housed, and suggesting inadequate or ineffective treatment around housing and subsequently. In each of these classes, the trend over time was of decreasing prevalence. In contrast, the trend in the overall prevalence of liver damage in heifers and steers was upwards, the trend in young bulls was downwards.






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7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45




Figure 17. Prevalence of live fluke and of fluke damage overall (combined) in heifers (H), steers (S) and young bulls (YB) over the first 46 weeks of 2017. Trend lines are dashed.



Marked geographical variation was recorded between counties (Figure 18). The highest level of fluke damage (60.3%) was recorded in Leitrim, while the lowest (11.9%) was in Carlow. The highest prevalence of live fluke (13.6%) was also recorded in Leitrim, while the lowest (1.0%) was in Wexford.







0.00% 10.00%

Figure 18. Liver fluke results from the Beef HealthCheck programme by county showing the percentage of livers with evidence of liver fluke damage without live fluke being observed (green) and with live fluke observed (dark blue).

Analysis of lung data indicated that 2.1% of all cattle had evidence of pneumonia, with this being observed most commonly in young bulls (3.2%), followed by cows (2.5%), steers (1.8%) and heifers (1.7%). A similar pattern of seasonal variation was observed in all classes, with evidence of pneumonia observed most commonly during the winter/spring period.

Objective 2: To contribute to the development by ICBF of economic breeding indices that incorporate health and disease data.

Outcomes: The large amount of data generated by BHC and recorded on ICBF is now available to ICBF for analysis.

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