The risk of infectious disease is a significant concern for all livestock farmers, but particularly for those who are starting new dairy enterprises or engaging in contract rearing. For this reason, there are a range of advisory and information services available to help farmers understand the risks they face and make practical decisions on how best to mitigate those risks in the most appropriate way for their farm enterprise.
In the first instance, farmers should discuss how to reduce the risk of disease with their private veterinary practitioner. Given how familiar the vet is with farms under his/her care, they are uniquely positioned to advise farmers on how to protect their cattle and their business.
I would also draw attention to the excellent resources offered by Animal Health Ireland, who have a work programme specifically dedicated to biosecurity. The biosecurity technical working group of AHI has developed a series of leaflets on how farmers can understand, manage and reduce the risk of disease. I would urge all new entrants to the dairy sector to engage with the Johnes Disease control programme, run by AHI and co-funded by my Department.
Regarding the risk posed by bovine TB, my Department provides advice to farmers through public meetings and online resources which are available on the bovine TB section of the Department’s website on how to reduce the risk to their cattle.
Contract rearing operations should pay particular attention to the risks of disease and Teagasc have provided a series of information sessions to farmers on this topic. My officials have spoken at several of these meetings on the veterinary disease risks and how best to manage them.