African swine fever has been confirmed on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.
According to the National Pig Association, the disease was confirmed on March 25 following the deaths of almost 400 'free-ranging pigs'.
An official OIE report states there were a total of 500 cases from a group of about 700 pigs. Of these, the clinical symptoms included several 'sudden deaths' with a number of pigs surviving the disease.
Samples of some of the dead pigs were tested for ASF, with two testing positive. The samples were then sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) for confirmatory PCR testing.
It is not yet known how the virus reached the island. Various control measures have been introduced, including enhanced surveillance and restrictions on movement.
ASF is one of the biggest threats to the global pig market. Historically, outbreaks have been reported across Africa and parts of Europe, South America and the Caribbean. In recent years, however, the disease has devastated pig populations across much of Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.
The World Health Organization estimates that around a quarter of the world’s pigs will die as a result of ASF.
The organisation started in 1920 as the Animal Diseases Research Association
The Moredun Research Foundation marked a historic milestone on Tuesday (17 March) when it celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the institute is dedicated to promoting the highest standard of animal health and welfare through research and education. It was set up by a committee of farmers in 1920, and has since developed many of the diagnostic tests, vaccines and disease prevention and control strategies used on farm today.
“Moredun focusses its research on infectious diseases of livestock and wildlife species, especially those which are endemic, or common, diseases which adversely affect the efficiency of production and animal welfare,” said Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Moredun Group.
“The organisation has developed scientific expertise in studying the viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause disease and the animal species they infect. We are proud of our long history of delivering practical tools and solutions to ensure safe, high-quality food from livestock and look forward to continuing our important work”.
Started in 1920 as the Animal Diseases Research Association, the initial objectives of the organisation were to “research infectious diseases of livestock and to apply available knowledge to farm practice”.
The ethos of the Foundation is to apply innovative science to develop solutions to control infectious diseases and to ensure that any advances in new technologies and knowledge are communicated effectively with those that can benefit from them.
Ian Duncan Millar, chairman of the Moredun Foundation, added: “It was on this day, 17th March 1920, exactly 100 years ago that a public meeting was held in the chambers of the Royal Agricultural Society of Scotland and the Animal Disease Research Association was formed.
“One of the tenets of the new Association was to “…be in a favourable position to influence stock owners and in this matter science has scarcely penetrated farm practice. It will be an essential part of the organisation to bridge the gap between research workers and farmers”.
New products designed for ‘all management systems’
Hygiene brand Deosan has developed a new range of pre and post milking products designed for modern dairy farms, to be distributed by Diversey.
The active ingredient in the new Target range is Chlorhexidine, which is an effective disinfectant with a strong affinity to skin, ensuring rapid bacterial uptake. The two products in the range both possess near neutral pH and increased skin care ingredients.
Deosan Target Pre-Post is a pre and post milking product designed for all housed cattle and suitable as a baseline product for outdoor cows, while Deosan Target Summer is a ready to use post-milking product specifically for cows managed outside. Both products have been designed with the specific requirements of indoor and outdoor management systems in mind.
Global application specialist at Diversey Alison Cox said: “Throughout the development of this range, we have given serious consideration to the requirements needed from a teat disinfectant during the cow’s lactation. It is important your choice of product reflects the specific challenges that housing, weather and environment bring to managing udder hygiene and teat skin condition.
“In addition, we have considered carbon efficiency, residue control, animal welfare and antibiotic reduction, whilst ensuring the product offers a return on the investment for the customer. The increasing pressure to meet all of these requirements needs a new approach to hygiene solutions, and this new range has been developed to fulfil future demands.”
The product range is available from distributors nationwide.
Event will be held at the annual World Buiatrics Congress
Applications are now open for the biennial Ruminant Well-Being Awards, held by Boehringer Ingelheim in partnership with the World Association for Buiatrics.
The event will be held at the annual World Buiatrics Congress, which highlights the importance of vets in the continuous improvement of animal welfare for food-producing ruminants.
The next congress is due to take place in Madrid, Spain (September 27 to October 1, 2020). Applications will be accepted to two different awards: the Ruminant Well-Being Research Award and the Ruminant Well-Being Achievement Award.
The Ruminant Well-Being Research Award will be granted to a recent PhD graduate in veterinary science, animal science or related disciplines that made an exceptional contribution to the scientific knowledge on ruminant wellbeing.
The recipient will have achieved either some or the following:
- improving the understanding of pain expression as well as the recognition of pain and other forms of suffering
- developing scientific methods of measuring animal wellbeing, with potential practical applications
- developing scientific-based strategies that improve animal wellbeing
- identifying issues of concern and seeking solutions to challenges
- developing methods to change human attitudes and behaviour to ensure proper stewardship.
The Ruminant Well-Being Achievement Award will be granted to a practising veterinary surgeon or a researcher in veterinary science, animal science or related disciplines to recognise his/her achievements in advancing the wellbeing of ruminants.
It rewards an individual that has contributed to the wellbeing of food-producing ruminants by achieving some of the following:
- improving the understanding of pain expression as well as the recognition of pain and other forms of suffering
- developing scientific methods of measuring animal wellbeing
- developing practical wellbeing assessment methods
- developing practical strategies to improve animal wellbeing
- raising awareness of issues of concern; engaging different stakeholders in seeking solutions to challenges
- changing human attitudes and behaviour to ensure proper stewardship
- communicating information about, and proposing solutions to, animal well-being challenges with courage and integrity.
An independent panel of experts will select the winner under the supervision of Xavier Manteca, a professor in applied ethology at the University of Barcelona and founder of the Farm Animal Welfare Education Centre.
Applications will be accepted until April 30, 2020. For the criteria and application forms, please visit farmanimalwellbeing.com
The Moredun Research Institute and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) have joined forces in a bid to combat the growing issue of looping ill, a serious tick-borne virus of sheep and red grouse.
In the 1930s, Moredun developed an effective louping ill vaccine, but it was recently withdrawn from manufacture. The vaccine had been hailed as a game changer for sheep farmers and grouse moor managers alike.
Recently, tick populations have been growing and been expanding their reach into areas where they previously had not been an issue. With this came a rise in tick-borne illnesses and, in the absence of a louping ill vaccine, serious losses in both sheep and red grouse.
“We have had many reports from our hill farming members that they have been losing sheep, mainly ewe hoggs to louping ill, some losing up to 25 per cent of their replacement females which is a serious loss,” explained Dr Beth Wells from the Moredun Research Institute.
“We already have successful partnerships with GWCT and are delighted they have joined us in a new project to work towards a novel vaccine for louping ill control.”
Scientists have identified potential candidates for a new generation louping ill vaccine. These will require further research to ensure they cause an immune response in sheep and protect animals against louping ill.
“This important work will be vital in the fight against LIV, and GWCT is pleased to have been able to help in raising the funds for the Moredun’s work as a separate initiative to our core fundraising activity,” said Dr Adam Smith of the GWCT.
Moredun chair Ian Duncan Miller added: “This research illustrates the benefits of working in partnership and we are very pleased to be working alongside GWCT with this project, which is of extreme importance to both of our industries. This project takes Moredun back to its roots in tackling a really serious disease in the hills and uplands.”
Researchers said the project is due to start later this year and, if successful, will be pushed towards commercialisation ‘as soon a possible’.
Study finds imperfect vaccines control severity of viral disease
A new study conducted on chickens infected with Marek’s disease has revealed that vaccines that do not prevent onward transmission or infection are more effective in controlling the severity of the disease than previously thought.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and the US Department of Agriculture’s Avian Disease and Oncology laboratory (ADOL), conducted the study to analyse how leaky vaccines impact overall populations.
One group of chickens received a leaky vaccine – this contained a related live virus originating from turkeys, which triggers an immune response, but no symptoms. While a second control group was given a sham vaccine, which contained no biological material. Both groups were then infected with Marek’s disease virus and placed with different sets of unvaccinated chickens for 48 hours.
More than 97 per cent of the birds became infected. However, the unvaccinated chickens that had contact with those who had received the leaky vaccine were less likely to develop full-blown Marek’s disease and there were also fewer deaths. This was found to be a result of vaccinated birds transmitting fewer copies of Marek’s disease virus.
Lead author Dr Richard Bailey, who is also a research fellow at the Roslin Institute, said: “In our study, we found that leaky vaccines can provide benefit in terms of reducing the presence and severity of symptoms, and mortality, caused by Marek’s disease even for unvaccinated chickens. We need further research to understand how this effect changes as the virus mutates and in other strains of chickens.”
Chinese teams develop ‘safe and effective’ vaccine
Researchers from China’s Harbin Veterinary Institute have reported that an African Swine Fever (ASF) vaccine has been developed which has proved safe and effective under laboratory testing.
In a research paper published in Science China Life Sciences, the research team stated that the live vaccine was created by deleting a series of genes from the virus using the country’s first ASF strain as a backbone.
The researchers said: “We used the Chinese ASFV HLJ/18 as a backbone to generate six viruses bearing different gene deletions, and found that HLJ/18-7GD, which has seven genes deleted, is fully attenuated in pigs, has a low risk of converting to a virulent strain, and could induce solid protection in pigs against lethal ASFV challenge.
“HLJ/-18-7GD has been fully evaluated and proven to be safe and effective against ASFV. We therefore expect that this vaccine will play an important role in the control of ASFV.”
Safety evaluations showed that, after intramuscular injection, the HLJ/18-7GD virus did not appear in the blood or any other organs, and only remained in the lymph nodes of pigs for a short period. From this, researchers surmised that HLJ/18-7GD is “highly unlikely to convert to a virulent strain during its replication in pigs.”
Testing also found that the vaccine tested safely in pregnant sows and did not cause abortion when administered in the early, middle and late stages of pregnancy, nor limit the rate of piglets born.
Development of the vaccine was overseen by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. At present, there has been no estimate given as to when it could be put into production.
Cattle vets working in all areas encouraged to submit
The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) has announced that it is welcoming submissions to its Congress 2020 programme.
The association hopes to deliver three days of high quality CPD for attendees by inviting cattle veterinary practitioners working in industry, practice and academia to share their knowledge and experience with their colleagues. Submissions from recent graduates are also welcomed.
BCVA Congress has number of programme options available to those wanting to submit, including:
- The Young Vets Stream
- Clinical and practitioner research
- Postgraduate research
Further information on these options along with submission guidelines can be found on the BCVA website. The submission deadline for presentations is 3 April and 21 August is for posters.
BCVA is encouraging all of its members to consider participating and is keen to welcome submissions from those who have never presented before – promising full support throughout the process. Those whose submissions are successful will receive a discount attendance rate for the event.
This year’s BCVA Congress takes place in Telford from 22-24 October. More details are to be announced soon.
Image (c) BCVA.
Findings to help inform welfare research and policy
Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have launched a survey in order to assess what both livestock farmers and members of the public think makes farm animals happy.
According to SRUC, it is generally believed by the public that farm animals are happiest when allow to roam freely and exhibit their natural behaviours, however livestock farmers often place greater emphasis on maintaining the health of the animals.
This new investigation from SRUC’s Animal Behaviour and Welfare team aims to clarify just how divided opinions are on what is most important for animal welfare.
After surveying 800 members of the public, the team is now asking farmers to provide their views on how important health and natural behaviours are for the wellbeing of farm animals.
The survey has been funded by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS), and is open to all livestock farmers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Dr Belinda Vigors, a social scientist at SRUC, said: “We hope the findings will help us gain a better understanding of the value placed on different aspects of farm animal welfare and how potential trade-offs between animal health and natural behaviours are viewed by key stakeholders.
“Interest in this survey has already been expressed by those working in policy, so contributions from the livestock sector would be really valuable at this stage.”
To complete the survey, please visit the Happy and Healthy webpage. Results are due to be released by the end of the year.
Findings will help in developing schemes to limit spread
Scientists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are urging dairy farmers across the country to participate in a new study, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the spread of Mycoplasma bovis in cattle.
Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) can cause several diseases in cows, including bovine respiratory disease (BRD); pneumonia; middle ear disease, resulting in a head tilt; mastitis and arthritis.
In an effort to gather more knowledge on the distribution of M. bovis in Scotland, as well an understanding of how it spreads within and between farms, the SRUC Veterinary Services team is seeking Scottish dairy farms to take part in a new year-long study.
According to SRUC, the study will consist of bulk tank milk sampling and a short questionnaire on general herd management. Farms taking part in the study will receive their own results throughout the year from their registered veterinary practice.
Project lead Jessica Ireland-Hughes, from SRUC Veterinary Services, said: “This project will be of huge benefit to the industry as we currently don’t know how many farms have ongoing M. bovis-associated disease and which farms are more or less at risk.
“There is currently no national control scheme in place for this disease, and the results of this project will help develop more structured control plans to limit spread between and within herds, help manage the welfare and economic effects and reduce the reliance on antimicrobials.”
The Scottish Dairy Hub will be sending a flyer containing more information to all Scottish dairy farmers in the next week. Those wishing to participate can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vets urged to work closely with farmers to tailor farm health and welfare plans
The castration of rams should only be carried out as a last resort to help improve animal welfare standards, according to leading vets.
In a new position statement, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Sheep Veterinary Association (SVS) say that, in the absence of licensed local anaesthesia and analgesia products in the UK, efforts should be made to reduce the need for painful husbandry procedures.
Both organisations are calling on vets to work closely with farmers to tailor their farm animal health and welfare plans to reduce the need for castration.
“We know anecdotally that a number of farmers are successfully reducing these procedures in their flocks by using alternative measures,” commented BVA junior vice president and large animal vet, James Russell. “It is about striking a balance between a need for procedures such as these and the potential for them to cause pain.
“Recognising the devastating health and welfare implications of flystrike, BVA and SVS recommend preventive strategies to minimise this condition as well as ways to reduce the welfare risks associated with the act of tail-docking.”
He continued: “Examples include making sure that the procedure occurs after ewe and lamb bonds have been established to avoid ‘mis-mothering’. As with any intervention, tail docking should only occur after it is agreed under a Veterinary Flock Health Plan.”
SVS president, Nick Hart added: “The awareness and implementation of welfare improvements should underpin all aspects of sheep farming. As an association, it is entirely appropriate for us to question practices that impact upon welfare especially when we consider the large numbers of individual animals that are affected.
“With the evolution of our understanding of welfare, we believe that discussion between the farm vet and the farmer is essential in formulating the management of the castration of lambs and the removal of tails. However, the limitations on the availability of licensed products to minimise the discomfort that can occur due to these procedures make this policy aspirational.”
The new position statement forms part of the Animal Welfare Strategy, a BVA framework designed to help vets advocate better animal welfare outcomes.
James Russell said: “It has been great to work with the divisional specialists to shine a spotlight on sheep with the hope that we can help navigate some of the welfare implications associated with routine procedures such as castration and tail docking and, ultimately reduce their use.
“In no way would we want to be seen to tell the farming community how to do their job but instead encourage vets to work really closely with farmers on their animal health and welfare management plans. That helps us to consider all of the options out there and frame castration and tail-docking as the serious procedures that they are, meaning that they are used as more of a last resort, rather than first.”
SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College, is advising farmers to increase the level of magnesium in minerals given to suckler cows before calving.
The advice comes after a study by the National Research Council (NRC) in the United States found that magnesium from rock sources has about half the absorption levels than previously thought.
Karen Stewart from SAC Consulting said: “The current guideline is 10 per cent magnesium in a pre-calving mineral for normal silage rations and I think the revised absorption coefficients would justify an increase to 15 per cent magnesium to take account of the reduced absorption.”
Low levels of magnesium can lead to staggers - a condition that causes cows to lose their balance. It is also critical for cows to mobilise their calcium reserves and to minimise the risk of slow calving.
The NRC and Bill Weiss, a professor of dairy cattle nutrition at Ohio State University, have given some indications of changes they are making to availability for magnesium. They suggest that cows absorb less magnesium than previously thought.
In the UK, magnesium oxide is the most common form used in mineral supplements. SAC Consulting says that given the recent information, and depending on diet, it would be advisable to increase magnesium levels in suckler cow pre-calving minerals.
Ms Stewart added: “Magnesium plays a vital role in helping cows mobilise their own reserves of calcium to help with muscle contractions. Low magnesium is associated with slow calvings. If staggers is considered a particular risk or the silage has particularly high potassium levels as a result of slurry applications, further supplementation may be considered.
She continued “This spring the risk of slow calvings will be higher as a result of cows being high body condition score.Getting a full silage analysis including minerals, and planning pre-calving rations with nutritional advice, will be particularly important ahead of spring calving 2020.”
Initiative aims to deliver a set of possible interventions for vets and farmers
Animal health firm Boehringer Ingelheim has announced a new project to gain a deeper understanding of how human behaviour influences the wellbeing of cattle.
The project aims to gather information from farmers and veterinary surgeons across the globe on farming practices and routine pain management interventions. It forms part of a project called Cattle First, an initiative that works to foster health, wellbeing, innovation and sustainability on cattle farms around the world.
A press release reads: ‘To be able to improve animal wellbeing, we first need to understand the needs of the animal and how they are affected by human behaviour. However, in order to effect change, we ultimately need to understand the behaviour of people.
‘Behavioral science – the understanding of how and why people behave in certain ways – could be helpful. The theories that underpin behavioural science can help in many stages along this journey. In the context of farm animal wellbeing, it can help get to the root causes of what people do and why they do it.’
Boehringer is teaming up with Innovia Technology - a Cambridge-based innovation consultancy - to undertake the project, which aims to develop a set of behaviour-based interventions that may improve cattle wellbeing.
Project lead Laurent Goby, senior global marketing manager at Boehringer Ingelheim’s ruminant business, explains: “With the involvement of Innovia’s expertise, we expect to better understand farmers’ behaviour and motivations and analyse how their choices can affect cattle well-being. This should enable us to design interventions that target the reasons behind these behaviours and are acceptable and feasible to stakeholders.
“This ambitious and innovative project aims to deliver a set of possible interventions for vets and farmers, starting with one specific area of cattle welbeing. We expect that the work along the way will reveal many interesting and important aspects of pain management in cattle which may serve as a basis for practical interventions to ultimately improve cattle well-being,” he said.
For more information about the project visit www.farmanimalwellbeing.com
Appeal to fund vital equipment finds success
Tremendous support from the country’s chicken enthusiasts over the weekend led to the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) raising £20,000 to purchase a new van after the previous vehicle broke down unexpectedly.
For the past fifteen years, the charity has rescued and rehomed hens across the UK, finding free-range homes for almost 760,000 hens to date. Much of this was done using two large vans adapted to transport the hens, but in late January, one of these vans broke down, hindering the important rescue work that the charity carries out.
BHWT launched an urgent appeal on 12 February, with a message from founder Jane Howorth MBE explaining the situation:
“Our local mechanic confirmed our fears and we had to face the grim reality that our trusty van, which has helped us save so many girls over the years, has reached the end of its days,” she said.
“We are now in desperate need of a new van as we have 6,400 hens waiting to be collected from their cages before the end of this month. Without a van, we simply cannot continue our life-saving work.”
In order to purchase a new van that could be adapted to suit the charity’s unique specifications, BHWT needed to raise £20,000. An outpouring of support from followers led to the goal being met in less than four days. The charity updated the donation page with a statement reading: “We have now reached our target – thank you all so much for your support.”
More support needed for UK farmers
The RSPCA is urging the UK Government to include restrictions on imports of farm animal products produced to lower welfare standards in the new Agriculture Bill.
Providing evidence at the agriculture bill committee on Tuesday, the charity argued against the prospect of trade deals allowing food imports which would be illegal to produce in the UK.
Assistant director of public affairs at the RSPCA David Bowles said: “While the RSPCA is delighted the Government will be supporting farmers to reach higher welfare standards, it’s essential that restrictions on lower welfare imports are written into the bills at the same time."
Mr Bowles warned that, without these restrictions, cheaper food produced to lower welfare standards than are allowed in the UK would be let in and sold on shelves, threatening farmers’ livelihoods.
He explained: “For example, 55 per cent of the pork and bacon we eat is imported. The USA still uses sow stalls (illegal in the UK), so if we import pig products from there, we’ll be opening up the door to cheaper imports which are produced to far lower welfare standards. That’s not what the consumer wants.”
The charity expressed its support for the new farm support system. It hopes that financial assistance will help farmers to deliver higher welfare standards.
Mr Bowles continued: “This is a very exciting time for farmers. Not only are there particular opportunities to establish base welfare standards in markets for sheep, chicken, beef and dairy, but also in other areas. For example zero per cent of ducks have access to full body water, it’s a tragedy for ducks in the UK.
“As we find ourselves at a crossroads of animal welfare, it is so important we get this right to safeguard our farmers and to ensure the public can continue to access food produced to high welfare standards.”
Researchers use GPS trackers to analyse foraging habits
A recent study from the University of Bristol has revealed that when foraging, less healthy sheep will avoid high-quality vegetation due to a higher risk of infection from ticks.
In this study, researchers from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and Veterinary School fitted GPS trackers to 23 ewes in the uplands of Dartmoor. The trackers were set to record the ewes’ location every two minutes over a period of eight days.
These 114,093 location recordings were then integrated with satellite data of vegetation quality, field sampling data showing tick prevalence, and parasite load and health measures for each sheep.
Analysis of this data showed that sheep assessed as more anaemic avoided dense, high-quality vegetation where ticks are typically found. By reducing encounter rates with ticks, these sheep also avoided a higher risk of infection.
In contrast, healthier sheep appeared undeterred by the potential risk of infection from ticks. Favouring areas providing greater high-quality vegetation and foraging intake.
Lead author Caroline Liddell, a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PhD student from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Discovering that the trade-off between maximising forage intake and minimising parasite encounter depends on the health status of individual sheep emphasises the need to study livestock as individuals, even in group-living animals such as sheep. GPS tracking technology provides a feasible and increasingly affordable means of obtaining such individual-level data.
“Our study, which used extensively grazed sheep as a model system, opens new possibilities to study free-living grazing systems, and illustrates the benefits of using GPS technology to advance our understanding in this area.
“Future studies could use controlled interventions, such as anti-parasitic treatment, to separate cause and effect and develop understanding of the processes generating the observed associations.”