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Animal Health Awareness Week 2020

Added 22.10.2020

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine held Ireland’s first ever Animal Health Awareness Day (AHAD) on the 28 November 2019. The event was supported by a range of stakeholders from across the agrifood industry and third level institutions including the IFA, Teagasc, Animal Health Ireland, the School of Veterinary Medicine at UCD, Veterinary Ireland and ICBF. Important messages around animal health and disease were successfully communicated to a large number of stakeholders through a combination of digital media and more traditional communication methods.

Following on from the success of the AHAD, DAFM is organising the second event of this kind, Animal Health Awareness Week (AHAW) 2020, which will take place from the 23 to the 28 November this year. The event will feature webinars, podcast appearances, and a social media campaign, as well as interviews and advertisements on local radio and the distribution of leaflets and posters.

Keep track of this day and upcoming events via the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine website, twitter feed '@agriculture_ie', and our Facebook posts on the Department’s account.

Programme of events for AHAW 2020 (subject to change).

A detailed timetable for our evening webinar events will be available shortly.

Why have an Animal Health Awareness Week?

In the past year we have all seen, at a very personal level, the impact that diseases can have on our lives. Being conscious of our own health helps to make us even more conscious of the importance of health for our animals, our land and our planet.

Ireland is often described as an island on the edge of Europe. That location helps us to remain free from many of the animal diseases which affect other countries. This is very important to our entire agricultural sector.  Everyone has their own part to play in maintaining our positive health status as a country. The Animal Health Awareness Week reminds us of the importance of what’s at stake- and encourages everyone to play their part.

As part of AHAW 2020, a major DAFM initiative in the Animal Health area will be launched- the National Biosecurity Strategy. As well as providing a clear way forward for all stakeholders to contribute to improving standards in this area, this Biosecurity initiative serves to demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to positive animal health to trading partners.

A new Calf Welfare Booklet will be launched on Thursday the 26th of November as part of the Animal Health Awareness Week. Animal welfare is an important component of Animal Health Awareness Week 2020, as good animal welfare and good animal health are closely related- the two generally go hand in hand

Why is animal health so important for Ireland?

We export the majority of our agrifood products, and livestock farming is a key provider of these exports. Having healthy animals helps farming and the agrifood industry to prosper in a variety of ways:

  • Healthier animals are more efficient animals.Healthy animals produce more milk, meat, eggs, etc. Less sickness and lower mortality rates also mean that less greenhouse gas is produced, improving the sustainability of farming.
  • Healthier animals are happier animals.The robust health and good welfare status of our animals is a major selling point for Irish food internationally.
  • Ireland is free of many devastating diseases of livestock.Thankfully, we’ve managed to avoid outbreaks of Bluetongue, African Swine Fever, Newcastle Disease and other ailments that have devastated animal populations elsewhere. Such outbreaks can be devastating for the farmers whose herds and flocks are affected, and very costly for the taxpayer. Having robust systems in place to ensure continuing freedom helps to provide assurance for both farmers and agrifood companies, allowing them to plan ahead with confidence. We all need to be vigilant to avoid outbreaks of major, highly contagious diseases into the future.
  • Agrifood products are traded to other countries on the basis of certificatesagreed between the chief veterinary officers of exporting and importing countries. Many of these certificates require freedom from certain diseases to be demonstrated. The fewer diseases and the lower the levels of disease present in a country, the easier it is to retain existing markets and to access new ones.
  • Human health and animal health are closely linked. We cannot safeguard public health without paying close attention to animal health.
  • Drug resistance: Antimicrobials are drugs used to treat diseases caused by micro-organisms, and include all antibiotics. Anthelminthics are drugs used to treat diseases caused by parasitic worms. Overuse or unnecessary use of antimicrobials and anthelminthics in treating or controlling animal disease can lead to drug resistance problems, which can have severe consequences for both animal health and public health. Antimicrobial resistance is believed to be one of the greatest crises facing our generation. Better management of animal health and herd health reduces the need for antimicrobials and so reduces the risk of development of antimicrobial resistant strains of bacteria in our herds and flocks

How can farmers protect their herds or flocks from the more common or “endemic” diseases- Biosecurity!

  • Maintain a closed herd:avoid buying in livestock where possible.
  • Avoid sharing equipmentand vehicles between farms, and if unavoidable, clean and disinfect equipment between use.
  • Use vaccinations, anthelminthics and antimicrobials appropriately and where necessary,according to the advice of a veterinarian.
  • Engage with your local veterinary practitioner to put in place an effective herd health programmefor your herd.
  • Maintain good fences around the perimeter of your farm, and take appropriate measures to protect farmed animals from wildlife

How can farmers protect their herds or flocks from the threat posed by “exotic” diseases (those believed not to be present in Ireland)?

  • Avoid purchasing livestock from countries with higher disease risks.
  • Avoid feeding kitchen or catering waste to farmed animals.
  • Practice good biosecurity- consider how diseases might come into your farm and keep them out.
  • Become familiar with the signs of exotic and notifiable diseases, and report such diseases promptly if suspected.
  • Ask the vet to refer carcases and samples to DAFM’s Regional Veterinary Laboratories, especially in cases of disease or mortality with no clear diagnosis or cause. Unexpected/ atypical clusters of cases should always be followed up

For further information about any of the events due to take place during AHAW 2020, please contact 

 We all benefit from good animal health, and we all have a part to play. Let’s all play our part.