The importance of maintaining a high herd health status is often overlooked at farm and industry level.
It is a central plank in achieving the performance levels necessary to drive farm profitability, whether it be hitting fertility targets, minimising mortality or underpinning milk yield or daily liveweight gain.
At industry level, the importance of a high herd health status cannot be understated when it comes to gaining market access, securing new contracts or even maintaining existing markets.
In 2017, the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) came firmly on to the table while at the same time questions were being asked as to the welfare standards on Irish farms – albeit it from vested interest groups such as the vegan movement.
Nevertheless, it is clear that animal health and welfare will become more important for the Irish agri-food sector in the years ahead. As a major food exporter, it is an area in which Ireland must be to the fore.
As dairy expansion increases, we must ensure herd health and welfare standards continue to improve from the already high levels and that practices on farm are socially acceptable.
Given what is at stake, we should question if the resources and finances deployed in the area of herd health and welfare are adequate to ensure we meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Animal Health Ireland has been an excellent initiative in raising awareness of the health issues and tackling some of the production-related diseases.
However, it is a small organisation that is often stretched, distracted by funding issues and focused on reaching a political compromise rather than pushing ahead in tackling the issues.
Given what is at stake, we should question whether or not the structure of the organisation is right for such a pivotal role.