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Smith Welcomes Progress By Animal Health Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, welcomed the significant progress being made by Animal Health Ireland (AHI), which held its first Annual General Meeting recently.  AHI was launched by the Minister in January 2009 and, in the intervening period, the organisation has been very active in addressing some of the more important non-regulated endemic diseases of cattle.

Having prioritised its activities on the basis of industry and expert consultation, AHI initially set out to address Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), an economically important and highly prevalent viral disease of cattle.  AHI has been building awareness and education on BVD in a number of ways, including (i) the development of an information leaflet that, for the first time, provides Irish farmers and vets with an independent and scientifically robust approach to planning, investigating, controlling and monitoring this disease; (ii) the development of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) information source; (iii) the production of a series of videos presenting a case study of a BVD outbreak; (iv) production of a software package to assist the management of the disease at farm level and nationally and (v) the organisation of a series of roadshows on BVD earlier in the year.  Minister Smith noted that "having addressed the issue at individual farm level, AHI now plan to  launch a consultation paper on 30th November, putting forward a series of options for controlling the disease at the national level for the consideration of and decision by the stakeholders".

Amongst other programmes that AHI is working on is a national mastitis control programme, the primary objective of which is to reduce the Somatic Cell Count of Ireland's dairy herd. This initiative has been launched at the Teagasc national dairy conferences, which took place last week in Charleville and Mullingar.  The Minister stated that he "was delighted that all service providers, including Teagasc, ICBF, Veterinary Ireland and University College Dublin have reaffirmed their commitment to work closely together in support of AHI in this very important initiative".

The Minister particularly welcomed the fact that over the course of the past 18 months, more than 90 individuals from across all parts of the agri-industry have given of their time 'pro bono' to participate in a series of technical working groups, which bring forward, for AHI, the best scientific options available in respect of various diseases/conditions.

In conclusion, Minister Smith wished AHI well with the challenging work programme and pointed out that the efforts of AHI, with the support of its constituent stakeholders in promoting improved animal health, was aligned to and consistent with achieving the ambitious targets set for agricultural output in the Harvest 2020 proposals.

Note for editors:

Animal Health Ireland is an industry-led, not-for-profit partnership between livestock farmers, processors, service providers and government.  Its goal is to improve the profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of livestock farmers and related industries through superior animal health. Further information and details of current activity is available from the AHI website www.animalhealthireland.ie

Date Released: 23 November 2010