There are lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic which can be applied on farms to improve animal health, the chief executive of Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI) has said.

Speaking on a farm near Dunloy on Wednesday, Dr Sam Strain said the process of contact tracing people who had been near a positive COVID-19 case showed how easily infectious diseases can spread.

“We live in a world where people are very connected. In agriculture, animals are very connected too,” he said.

Strain gave the example of livestock movements where animals move between farms and through marts and he advised farmers to think carefully about disease risk when buying in stock.

Various steps can be taken to reduce the risk of introducing disease, such as buying in as few animals as possible, buying from a limited number of herds, sourcing from herds with high health statuses, and undertaking a quarantine procedure when new animals arrive.

“Just like COVID-19, many diseases in livestock are carried by apparently healthy-looking animals,” the AHWNI chief warned.

Strain said other terms used during the pandemic such as “flattening the curve” and “lowering the R number” can also be applied to farms.

He said this mainly involves limiting the spread of disease by reducing the number of compatriots that a sick animal infects.

His advice includes isolating and treating sick animals quickly and limiting the build-up of infectious agents in the environment by carrying out regular cleaning and disinfecting.

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