£6m funding to improve UK livestock health

Published 13 April 15

Funding for eight projects that aim to improve the health of livestock within the UK has been announced by the Animal Health Research Club (ARC).

The club, whose members include Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and other industry organisations, has allocated over £6 million in the second round of funding. In total, £10.8 million of ARC grant funding has been allocated to 15 research projects.¹

The funding will be spent on an array of projects including investigations into the genetics of Porcine Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRS), resistance to cryptosporidiosis in cattle and inflammatory processes in ovine footrot.

Formed in 2012, the club brings together industry and the research community to support research that improves the understanding of resistance to pests and diseases in farmed animals.

“As club members, it is a great opportunity for AHDB to be involved in this kind of collaborative research,” said DairyCo head of research and development Ray Keatinge.

“Due to considerable investment from the Research Council (BBSRC) the impact of the combined levy contribution (£300,000 over five years) is greatly magnified for the benefit of the livestock sectors.”

Representatives from each of the AHDB’s livestock divisions, BPEX (pigs), DairyCo (dairy) and EBLEX (beef and lamb), sit on the steering group with academics and representatives from industry to decide how the funding should be allocated. These decisions are based on the industry relevance and scientific excellence of proposals.

“The projects that have been selected by the steering group are key to us understanding more about the resistance to pests and diseases in farmed animals,” said Kim Matthews, EBLEX head of research and development.

“We’re really excited about the latest projects as widespread health problems in the UK sheep flock such as worms and footrot are costly for farmers. The research will help the industry develop the next steps to reduce the incidence of these diseases.”

Andrew Knowles, head of technical at BPEX, also stressed the importance of researching diseases that pose such a challenge to the pig industry. He said: “PRRS is a viral disease that is very difficult to control and there are many things we don’t understand about it. Plus it causes huge economic losses in the pig sector.

“We hope that this research will help pave the way to combating the problem in the long term.”