Disease – what’s the threat on your farm?

Endemic and exotic diseases have cost the UK economy more than £15 billion over the past 15 years, but what are the disease threats in the UK and what is being done to control them? This disease special takes a look.

Livestock farmers must become more aware of the physical and financial impact of both endemic diseases and exotic diseases and adopt a rigorous and effective approach to disease prevention, according to Chris Oura of the Institute for Animal Health.

“Clearly the range of endemic diseases occurring in the UK has the greatest impact on the health and performance of livestock but the rest of the world has never been closer in terms of the risks posed by the transmission of exotic diseases.

“We’re seeing diseases such as Peste de Petits Ruminants spreading rapidly from Africa. This cattle disease is now in Turkey which is very close to Europe and could pose a threat to the UK in the foreseeable future. Similarly we know that African Swine Fever is now out of control in Russia – and simply because of one shipment of pigmeat that was illegally fed to pigs on a Russian farm,” says Dr Oura.

Animal diseases are estimated to have cost the UK economy more than £15 billion over the past 15 years.

Vets believe UK farmers should become more aware of the risks posed by exotic diseases but believe the implications of having stock infected by one or more of the range of endemic diseases is still not fully appreciated.

“There’s still a great deal of misunderstanding about the risks posed by endemic diseases. Farmers would be well advised to have discussions with their vet about the potential impact on their businesses from diseases they may not believe pose a threat. It’s a responsible attitude to take – for themselves and for the industry.

“Exotic diseases can’t be ignored because of the devastation they can cause but the day to day control and awareness of endemic diseases in the UK should now be a priority for all livestock producers,” says Dr Oura.

Vets and animal health experts are convinced disease control will become even more effective over the next 30 years, even though there will be “enormous challenges”.

Climate change and greater accessibility to all parts of the world will work in favour of wider disease spread but the development of vaccines is expected to keep pace with emerging diseases and serotypes.

“Multiplex vaccines will become more widely used and there will be vaccines to cope with new viruses. But some viruses are evading the immune response so some of smarter ones will always remain a constant challenge.

“And with more vector-borne viruses emerging, changes in world climate will undoubtedly assist their means of spread,” says Dr Oura.

Download a PDF showing all the threats and control methods.

Read more about sheep scab

Coordination is key to managing Johne’s

Working together to get PPRS under control

See more