I grew up on a beef farm in the midlands of Ireland, where my family have lived for generations and went on to develop a career in animal health with a focus on livestock. I completed a PhD in Dublin studying parasitic disease in African cattle, which included field work in Kenya. I continued my work in research as a postdoctoral fellow studying the genetics of early embryo survival in dairy cows. After spending many years studying very focused topics, I decided I wanted to learn more about the big picture and understand the drivers behind animal health and disease. I went back to study veterinary medicine a few years later than most but thoroughly enjoyed those challenging years.
Wanting to experience working and living in another country, I moved to the UK in 2014 and took a role as a lecturer in animal health at Hartpury College. I now work as a technical policy advisor at the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH). My role is currently focused on a training programme for farmers in the responsible use of antibiotics and working on the UK exit from the EU and the impact this may have on animal medicines in the UK.
In my free time, I love to visit family and friends scattered throughout the UK and Ireland and catch up over good food. I have been known to spend an inordinate amount of time at antique markets and I enjoy getting out and about in the countryside - a great place to get clarity and perspective.
I am most grateful to AHDB for generously sponsoring my Nuffield Scholarship and I am very much looking forward to my Nuffield journey.
Animal Medicine Best Practice: unlocking the potential for UK farming
Livestock farming needs to be sustainable, productive, and profitable to survive and thrive. At the same time, farming supported by public money will increasingly come under pressure to deliver public goods. Expectations from consumers, Government and for international market development, as the UK leaves the EU, mean transparency in and evidence supporting animal health and welfare standards and animal medicines best practice are needed. These challenges are not insurmountable and a strategic approach to animal health and welfare, alongside animal medicines best practice can help deliver solutions.
This study took a closer look at opportunities to identify and evaluate influencing factors, strategies, and actions in relation to animal medicines best practice that could help solve these problems and unlock potential. No single silver bullet will do the job. However, all roads led back to boosting the health and welfare of livestock, which is both facilitated by animal medicines best practice and achieving it encourages best practice.
The levers needed to achieve animal medicines best practice are likely to involve both regulatory and voluntary industry approaches. A national coordinating body with ambition and the vision to invest and build capacity is a good starting point. Dissemination of best practice at scale could be achieved by using an effective rural advisory network. Farm vets should be at the heart of the strategy, as trusted professionals clearly supporting consumer and market confidence. A step change in mindset among both vets and farmers is needed to migrate towards a truly preventative health management approach, based on dynamic use of actionable data, reflexive use of diagnostics, greater use of vaccines and the application of bespoke, effective biosecurity plans. Such measures can improve the use of medicines e.g. vaccines, parasite control products, antibiotics, and pain relief to prevent or treat disease and to protect welfare. Consistent and widespread application of best practice pain management on farm will support claims that we have some of the highest welfare standards in the world.
Whilst we work to improve what we have today, there is also opportunity on the horizon in the form of the future UK regulatory landscape and our approach to innovative animal health solutions. We should strive for global regulatory collaboration and harmonisation, taking an evidence-based approach to animal medicine authorisation that helps to secure the attractiveness of the UK market and the availability of medicines. Applying a trade lens to policy and regulations should support opportunity for farmers on international export markets.