Animal Health Awareness Day, 28 November 2019
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is pleased to launch the first national Animal Health Awareness Day which takes place today the 28 November 2019. Animal Health Awareness Day is intended to highlight the importance of good livestock health to our economy and to remind different stakeholders of the part they have to play in maintaining and improving the health status of our livestock.
Minister Creed welcomed the launch, stating that “animal health is of major importance to Irish farmers in its contribution to on-farm productivity, profitability and animal welfare. Irish farmers intuitively understand the importance of good animal health. They take pride in the health of their livestock, and have learnt and developed the management and husbandry skills necessary to secure good animal health outcomes on farm.’’
Through its effects on outputs of raw material, animal health indirectly affects the performance of our agri-food industry. Animal health also has more direct effects on that industry. Many animal products are traded on the basis of certification or demonstration that certain diseases are absent or controlled. Our positive animal health status as a country is an important factor in retaining existing markets and gaining entry to new markets for our agri-food products.
Good animal health contributes to the profitability of individual farms as well as the sustainability of our livestock farming, as it means that less greenhouse gases are produced per unit of output. Good animal health also contributes to the very high animal welfare standards found on Irish farms. Sustainability and good animal welfare are not only worthy aims in their own right, they are also selling points for Irish agri-food products at home and abroad.
Animal health is also of importance due to its connection with human health. Many diseases of animals can also affect humans, or to look at it from the opposite point of view, many human diseases have reservoirs in the animal population. The connection between the health of animals, humans and the environment is effectively captured in the “One Health” concept. All other things being equal, better animal health leads to better human health, especially in groups of people who work with animals such as farmers and vets.
However, our positive animal health status cannot be taken for granted. Increasing globalisation means that we now have trade and travel links with places which would once have been considered very remote or exotic. In some cases, other countries have a disease status which is not as good as ours, so contact through trade and travel poses a risk in terms of incursion of exotic diseases. In addition, livestock farming in Ireland is changing. The growth in herd sizes and changes in the type of farming practices on some holdings brings with it animal health challenges which we must be ready to tackle. Finally, climate change means that pathogens and vectors which could not have survived here in times past can now become established within our boundaries.
Farmers, vets and other stakeholders can do many things which influence the health of livestock under their care, which also affects the health of our livestock at national level; certain actions help to secure the national health status and others can put it at risk. One of the main purposes of the Animal Health Awareness Day is to highlight the key things which different stakeholders can do to play their part in protecting the health of our livestock.
The Department would like to acknowledge the contribution and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders from across the agri-food industry and the education sector, for supporting the Animal Health Awareness Day and helping to make it a success.