BHC_Newsletter Winter 2015 FINAL


Guest Contributor P2 Clean Cattle - Healthy Food Joe Ryan, Meat Industry Ireland

Beef HealthCheck Programme Update P4

Animal Health Ireland, Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. Tel: +353 (0) 71 9671928, Email:


Clean Cattle – Healthy Food

Joe Ryan, Meat Industry Ireland

A major cornerstone of the beef industry is the production of a high quality, safe product, to the highest of international standards. Food safety is an absolute. The reputational and economic cost of a serious food safety incident could have massive negative implications for the entire sector. One constant challenge faced by the beef industry is the potential for E. coli contamination of meat. In this context, it is essential that cattle which are presented to slaughter plants are clean and dry and meet with the Department of Agriculture’s Clean Livestock Policy (CLP). One of the biggest and most constant threats that exist is that of pathogen contamination and particularly contamination with E Coli 0157. One channel whereby infection can occur is through cross-contamination from dirty hides onto the surface of carcases. Hide-to-carcass contamination is 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 at their stage of the process. Ruminant animals, cattle in particular, can harbour O157 and other VTEC (verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli) in their faeces. These animals may harbour and shed VTEC while remaining healthy or exhibiting only mild signs of infection. VTEC 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 on the farm include the provision of safe feed and water to animals as well as good housing management and hygiene practices. While complete eradication of VTEC from farm livestock or the farm environment is unlikely, practical risk reduction measures must be adopted at farm level. In the case of cattle producers, 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 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 don’t 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.

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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.

Joe Ryan, Meat Industry Ireland


Beef HealthCheck Programme - Update

Rebecca Carroll Assistant Programme Manager, Animal Health Ireland

T he Beef HealthCheck programme was formally launched, in September, at the National Ploughing Championships, by Minister Simon Coveney. Beef Health Check is a new Animal Health Ireland-led programme and is being rolled out nationally across participating Meat Industry Ireland member meat plants.

Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine with Joe Ryan, MII, Conor Geraghty, Veterinary Ireland, Rebecca Carroll, Programme Manager, Beef HealthCheck, Joe O’Flaherty and David Grahan, AHI with representatives from several Meat Factories attending the Beef HealthCheck programme launch at the NPC, Laois.

Beef HealthCheck uses touchscreen technology to allow Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) to record their findings on liver and lung lesions during the meat inspection process. Reports for farmers on each batch of animals presented to a factory are issued directly from meat factories.


Some farmers have already begun to receive the new Beef HealthCheck report and many more will do so in the coming weeks and months. The report is double sided with the first side giving the farmers information, detailed information on every animal in the batch, including tag number, sex, age, carcase weight and liver and lung scores.



A. FARMER A123456 01/01/2016 BRANCH XYZ





AGE (mths)




3 1 1 1 2 4 1

1 3 / 5

IE 12 34567 8 0001 IE 12 34567 8 0002 IE 12 34567 8 0003 IE 12 34567 8 0004 IE 12 34567 8 0005 IE 12 34567 8 0006 IE 12 34567 8 0007


20 22 40 44 19 20 56

330 360 400 500 340 350 410


2 1 1 1 4




Farmer Details

Animal Details

Liver and lung score

The liver and lung scores are colour coded in a traffic light system based on the seriousness of the lesions. Red indicates the most serious lesions, orange scores are less serious but abnormal and green scores are normal. Liver abscesses and “other” scores are coloured blue.

The categories are explained over leaf and possible reasons why a score may occur are given.




SCORE Liver lesions result in reduced performance

SCORE Lung lesions result in reduced performance


Normal Liver: No liver abnormalities detected.

Normal Lung: No lung abnormalities detected.


Liver damaged by fluke but no live fluke: Fluke may not be observed because the animal has (i) been treated and cured (ii) has under gone ‘self cure’ or (iii) live fluke may have been present but not observed. Liver damaged by fluke and live fluke present: Live fluke may be present because: the animal was (i) not treated for fluke (ii) re-infected after a previous treatment (iii) treated with a product that only kills adult fluke, leaving young fluke alive (iv) given a product to which the fluke have become resistant.

Limited lung damage: This animal had limited lung damage as a result of pneumonia. Pneumonia in cattle is caused by viral and/or bacterial infection. Extensive lung damage: This animal had extensive lung damage as a result of pneumonia. Pneumonia in cattle is caused by viral and/or bacterial infection.





Lung other: Lung damage due to other causes. Examples include abscess or tumour.



Liver other: Liver damage due to other causes. Examples include liver tumours or cirrhosis.

Where evidence of liver or lung damage is found, consult your veterinary practitioner for advice. Further information on improving herd health, including control of liver fluke, other parasites and IBR, can be found at Sign up for the Beef HealthCheck newsletter at


Liver abscess: Abscesses may occur following gut damage from a high grain diet or as an extension of infection from a ‘navel ill’ or other infection.


Liver scores: The first liver category is normal liver ; these have no visible abnormalities. Livers affected by liver fluke will fit into category 2: liver damaged by fluke but no live fluke or category 3: liver damaged by fluke and live fluke present , depending on whether live fluke are observed by the TVI. The remaining abnormal liver scores are liver abscess and liver other. The “other” category would include rare liver lesions such as tumours. Most lungs will fit into category 1: normal lung. Lungs affected by pneumonia will fit into category 2: limited lung damage or category 3: extensive lung damage , depending on the degree of damage in the lungs. The final abnormal lung category is lung other and rare lesions such as tumours will fall into this category.

Further information on the liver and lung categories is given in the report (See above).

Liver and lung lesions can cause animals to perform poorly. This can result in reduced average daily gain and cattle taking longer to reach slaughter weights. Liver fluke lesions have also been associated with reduced milk yields and decreased fertility. The information provided in the Beef HealthCheck report can be used by farmers and their veterinary practitioners to improve and monitor the health of cattle on farms. When abnormal results are present in the Beef HealthCheck report, consult your veterinary practitioner for advice. Animal Health Ireland is currently working with ICBF to make the Beef HealthCheck batch reports available through the ICBF website, in addition to directly from the meat factory.

Extensive Liver Fluke damage


National Compulsory BVD Eradication Programme - Key Messages for 2016

David Graham, Programme Manager for Biosecure Diseases, Animal Health Ireland

Progress towards eradication Eradication of BVD by 2020 remains achievable. This is the objective originally established for the programme. Realising this objective will depend on putting in place an immediate and effective solution to the problem of the retention by a small but significant number of farmers of Persistently Infected (PI) animals. BVD testing in 2016 For 2016, tag testing of new born calves will continue in all herds. This is the safest and most cost-effective approach at the current level of disease prevalence. Reduced cost testing for herds with Negative Herd Status in 2016 A number of laboratories will offer a reduced price for herds with NHS. Contact your preferred laboratory(s) to confirm prices ( [click here] for lab listing). The requirements to qualify for Negative Herd Status • completion of a minimum of three years of tissue tag testing on calves born into the herd in each of these three years; • existence of a negative BVD status for every animal currently in the herd (on the basis of either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ results); • 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. How to verify if your herd will qualify for Negative Herd Status on January 1st 2016 Check to see if all animals in your herd have either a direct (NEG) or indirect negative (INDINEG) BVD Status. This information is available without charge on the ICBF website [] . [Click here] for a step by step guide to accessing your herd’s data. Any animals without a negative status will need to be tested in order to achieve NHS. Removal of PI calves, herd restriction and notification of neighbours All PI calves should be culled as soon as possible after they are identified. Herds that retain PI calves for more than 7 weeks will be placed under restriction by DAFM, preventing both movement in and out (with the exception of PI animals to slaughter), and their neighbours and veterinary practitioners will be notified of the increased risk of infection to their herds. Testing in 2017 and beyond Work is ongoing to decide the additional options that will be available and the threshold prevalence of PI births below which it is safe to introduce them. Details will be available within the next 12 months. Financial supports from DAFM for the disposal of PI calves from beef herds in 2016 €140 is available for each beef calf removed within 5 weeks of the first positive test, or €90 if removed within 5 to 7 weeks.


Removal of PI calves and participation in the Beef Data Genomics Programme Participants in the BDGP must remove PI calves within 7 weeks of their first test. Herd investigation service in 2016

DAFM will fund investigations by trained veterinary practitioners into BVD breakdowns in 2016. This service will be co-ordinated by Animal Health Ireland. Further details of the service will be available at [www.] in the near future. Further information: See [] or contact the BVD Helpdesk on 076 1064590.


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