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"We want to be more than successful
we want to be significant," says
William, talking about the role that
MSD Animal Health plays in Irish
agriculture combining technology,
services and product solutions to
assist the veterinary profession and
the wider agricultural industry to
produce protein for the world's
growing population. "Connecting
with veterinary practitioners on a daily
basis, I have great admiration for how
they work fearlessly and with such
passion for their profession and the
wellbeing of animals to which they
have dedicated their lives."
MSD Animal Health works in partnership
with both veterinary practitioners and
farmers through further education, herd
health management tools and investing
in research and innovation. "The reality
is that new diseases are inevitable and,
as a company, we are dedicated to
preventing and controlling existing and
new disease through R&D. We research,
develop, manufacture and supply all
of our own products and help our
customers to be more efficient in their
day-to-day livelihoods."
In William's opinion there are three
distinct areas relating to sustainability:
economic, environmental and social.
"In terms of economic, it's all about
productivity, which goes hand in hand
with profitability. Sustainable farms
ultimately need to produce a `green
image' product a niche product that
will allow us to differentiate our product
on a global scale. We already have a
unique product with our grass-fed beef
and dairy produce, and Bord Bia and
the Department of Agriculture, Food
and the Marine have done a fantastic
job at opening up new markets for Irish
exports. However, there is more work
to be done here."
Continuing, William stresses that the
growing risk of antimicrobial resistance
(AMR) is arguably the biggest issue that
the industry has to tackle in the next 10
years. "The World Health Organization
has stated that more people will
die from AMR than from cancer by
2050. We need to reduce our use of
critically important antibiotics and it
is our job to promote a preventative
approach to animal health. MSD Animal
Health can help farmers to become
more economically sustainable
by encouraging the reduction of
antibiotics through preventative
medicine (vaccination). We know that
certain consumers are looking for
more antibiotic-free products. We also
need to educate the consumer that
sick animals do need to be treated for
animal welfare reasons. The tagline that
needs to be used when it comes to
antibiotics is: `use as much as necessary
but as little as possible'. Animal health
is a complex sector but in simple terms
farmers need to predict diseases before
they arrive; prevent disease through
vaccines and biosecurity; detect what
disease the animal is carrying through
diagnostics; and then have a targeted
approach to treatment if necessary."
According to MSD Animal Health,
vaccination levels on farm in Ireland
have increased by 212 per cent over the
last ten years and the aim is to continue
on this trajectory. William explains
that farmers will be more profitable if
they can take a preventative approach
to diseases on farm, "the animal will
perform better and you will also
have a safer, greener product, which
will be more saleable." William also
acknowledges the leading role Animal
Health Ireland plays in enhancing the
profile of disease prevention in national
debates and programmes.
From an environmental position,
William says it is all about greenhouse
gas emissions (GHGs). "There are a
couple of ways that this issue can
be tackled. Firstly, by using a more
environmentally friendly way to
spread slurry on the land. Secondly, by
changing the type of chemical fertiliser
used so there is reduced leaching
and a more efficient use of nitrogen
by the plant. And thirdly, to run a
more productive system. For example,
there are approximately one million
suckler cows in the Republic of Ireland
producing roughly 840,000 calves per
year. Research at Teagasc has shown
that farmers can achieve 0.95 calves per
cow (to reach 950,000 calves from the
same number of cows), and we believe
that MSD Animal Health can help
achieve these efficiencies at farm level
through vaccination against infectious
diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea
(BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis
(IBR), Leptospirosis. Vaccination of the
cow to pass on maternally-derived
antibodies is also an opportunity to
protect the calf in early life against
diarrhoea and Bovine Respiratory
Disease (BRD).
Concluding, William highlights
predictions that by 2050 there will
be nine billion people that will have
to be fed in this world. "Our outdoor
production system, with over 300
days for animals at pasture, is a much
greener and more environmentally-
friendly system than others across the
world, so Ireland has a competitive
advantage and a huge part to play in
feeding the global population."
Inventing
for
life
Dr William Minchin, Ruminant
Business Unit Director at MSD
Animal Health, discusses
the strides the Irish agri-
food industry has taken in
sustainability in recent years
and outlines the ways in which
farmers and vets can continue
to improve their approach to
sustainable food production.
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