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Department Supports New Farm Health Consultancy 14 April 2008

During the 2001 and 2007 foot-and-mouth outbreaks, bio-security became the new watchword for disease control and animal health. Bio-security is concerned with being aware of the ways disease can spread and taking every practical measure to minimise the risk of spread.

One of the ways in which DAFF plans to help improve bio-security on the Island is by supporting a Farm Health Consultant. Kythe Mackenzie, a local veterinary surgeon, has established a farm health consultancy business which will focus on bio-security and disease control. This consultancy is intended to work in association with farmers’ own vets, enhancing herd health through disease prevention, thereby improving profitability.

Kythe, who comes from a farming background, graduated from the University of Bristol in 1998 and commenced her work in general veterinary practice in Northern Ireland. She moved to the Island in November 2000 to joined Milan Veterinary practice where she worked until this January. While working in general practice Kythe always had a special interest in farm animals was and this was instrumental in her setting up K-mac Agricultural Animal Consultancy on the 1st January 2008.

Kythe said: ‘I am interested in preventive medicine and controlling the spread of animal disease on the Island. Dynamic health planning is vital to any farm and by assessing practices and bio-security measures we can look to improve the general health of the animals and protect profits. A 1 – 2 hour visit to a farm will provide me with the information needed to draw up a thorough assessment of the farms’ status and any existing and potential problems that need to be addressed. These will be prioritised in the order in which they could be addressed to maximise animal welfare and profitability.’

It is important for farmers to be aware of which diseases may be present or which may become a threat to their animals and any other bio-security issues they may face in the course of their operations. Perimeter fencing, suitable loading and unloading facilities and general hygiene practices all need to be addressed to help prevent the spread of any disease.

DAFF will be offering support to farmers by way of grants, support, an improved legislative framework, and publication of general advice. Funding will be available for initial screening tests for specific diseases, aspects of laboratory testing for disease control and also for subsequent annual monitoring which will help DAFF build a picture of the progress being made against disease. Along with support for testing and pens the Department is proposing to improve partial funding for perimeter fencing subject to Tynwald approval.

Phil Gawne, MHK, Minister for Agriculture said: ‘Improving the general health of animals and the level of bio-security is of the utmost importance to farmers to help prevent the future spread of any disease. By supporting the Farm Health consultancy we can ensure that we can tackle the issues which are causing the biggest problems and potential losses on an individually tailored basis. I would urge all farmers to take full advantage of this new service; it adds an extra dimension to the current advisory services available from Knockaloe and private veterinary surgeons.’

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