• Culicoides species composition and abundance on Irish cattle farms: implications for arboviral disease transmission

      Collins, Áine B; Mee, John F; Doherty, Michael L.; Barrett, Damien; England, Marion E; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2018-08-17)
      Background Following the emergence of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in Ireland in 2012, a sentinel herd surveillance program was established in the south of Ireland with the primary aim of investigating the species composition and abundance of Culicoides on livestock farms in the region. Methods Ultraviolet-light trapping for Culicoides was carried out on 10 sentinel farms. Each site was sampled fortnightly over 16 weeks (21st July to 5th November 2014). One Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute UV light trap was run overnight at each site and catches were transferred immediately into 70% ethanol. Culicoides were morphologically identified to species level. Collection site habitats were characterised using the Phase 1 habitat survey technique (Joint Nature Conservation Committee). Results A total of 23,929 individual Culicoides from 20 species was identified, including one species identified in Ireland for the first time, Culicoides cameroni. The most abundant species identified were Culicoides obsoletus/Culicoides scoticus (38%), Culicoides dewulfi (36%), Culicoides pulicaris (9%), Culicoides chiopterus (5%) and Culicoides punctatus (5%), comprising 93% of all Culicoides specimens identified. Collection site habitats were dominated by improved grassland and a combination of broadleaf woodland and native woodland species. Conclusions The most abundant species of Culicoides identified were the putative vectors of bluetongue virus (BTV) and SBV in northern Europe. Their presence and abundance demonstrates the potential for future transmission of arboviruses among livestock in this region.
    • Disease screening profiles and colostrum management practices on 16 Irish suckler beef farms

      O’Shaughnessy, James; Earley, Bernadette; Barrett, Damien; Doherty, Michael L; Crosson, Paul; de Waal, Theo; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2015)
      Background Calf output is a key element in determining the profitability of a suckler beef enterprise. Infectious agents such as Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) virus, colostrum management and parasitic challenge can all affect calf output. Prior to the national BVD eradication programme, there was little published information on either the prevalence or effect of BVD in Irish beef herds. There is little published information on colostrum management practices in Irish commercial beef herds and there have also been few studies published on the prevalence of liver fluke or rumen fluke infection in Irish beef herds. Sixteen farms participating in the Teagasc/Farmers Journal BETTER farm beef programme were used in this study. Fourteen herds were screened for the presence of BVD virus in 2010 using RT-PCR. In 13 herds, blood samples were collected from calves (2–14 days of age) in November 2011 - April 2012 to determine their passive immune status using the zinc sulphate turbidity (ZST) test, while in 12 herds, blood and faecal samples were taken in order to determine the level of exposure to gastrointestinal and hepatic helminths. Results The overall prevalence of BVD virus-positive cattle was 0.98% (range 0 - 3% per herd, range 0.6 - 3.0% per positive herd). Eighteen of the 82 calves (22%) sampled had ZST values less than 20 units (herd mean range 17.0 – 38.5 units) indicating a failure of passive transfer. The overall animal-level (herd-level) prevalence of liver fluke and rumen fluke infection in these herds was 40.5% (100%) and 20.8% (75%), respectively. Conclusions The potential costs associated with the presence of animals persistently infected with BVD virus through the increased use of antibiotics; the rate of failure of passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins and the high prevalence of liver fluke infection in these herds highlight that some Irish suckler beef farms may not be realizing their economic potential due to a range of herd health issues. The use of farm-specific herd health plans should be further encouraged on Irish suckler beef farms.
    • Herd health status and management practices on 16 Irish suckler beef farms

      O'Shaughnessy, James; Mee, John F; Doherty, Michael L.; Crosson, Paul; Barrett, Damien; Grady, Luke; Earley, Bernadette; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2013-11-06)
      Background: There have been few studies published internationally which document herd health management practices in suckler beef herds and no published Irish studies. The study objective was to document herd health status and management practices on sixteen Irish suckler beef herds over a two year period (2009–2010). The farms used in the study were part of the Teagasc BETTER farm beef programme. The mean (s.d.) herd size, stocking rate and farm size was 68 cows (27.6), 2.0 LU/ha (0.3) and 64.3 (21.6) adjusted hectares, respectively. Two questionnaires were designed; 1) a farmer questionnaire to collect information on farm background and current herd health control practices and 2) a veterinary questionnaire to collect information on the extent of animal health advice given by veterinarians to their clients and identification of any on-farm herd health issues. Results: Dystocia, calf pneumonia, and calf diarrhoea, in that order, were identified as the primary herd health issues in these Irish suckler beef herds. In addition, substantial deficiencies in biosecurity practices were also identified on these farms. Conclusions: The findings of this study may serve as the focus for future research in animal health management practices in Irish suckler beef herds.
    • Nematode control in suckler beef cattle over their first two grazing seasons using a targeted selective treatment approach

      O'Shaughnessy, James; Earley, Bernadette; Mee, John F; Doherty, Michael L.; Crosson, Paul; Barrett, Damien; de Waal, Theo; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2015-06-18)
      Background With concerns over the development of anthelmintic resistance in cattle nematode populations, we must re-examine our approach to nematode control in cattle. Targeted selective treatments (TST), whereby individual animals are treated instead of entire groups, are being investigated as an alternative. The study objective was to determine if anthelmintic usage could be reduced using a TST-based approach to nematode control in spring-born suckler beef cattle over their first and second grazing seasons (SGS) without affecting performance. In the first grazing season (FGS), 99 calves with an initial mean (s.d.) calf age and live weight on day 0 (June 28th 2012) of 107 (23.1) days and 160 (32.5) kg, respectively, were used. The study commenced on day 0 when calves were randomised and allocated to one of two treatments; 1), standard treatment (control) and 2), TST. Control calves were treated subcutaneously with ivermectin on days 0, 41 and 82 in the FGS. All calves were treated with ivermectin on day 124 and housed on day 133. In the SGS, only heifer calves from the FGS were used and control heifers were treated with ivermectin on day 393. Animals were weighed, blood and faecal sampled every three weeks. The TST animals were treated with ivermectin if thresholds based on a combination of plasma pepsinogen concentrations, faecal egg count and/or the presence of Dictyocaulus viviparus larvae in faeces (FGS only) were reached. Results No TST calves reached the treatment threshold criteria in the FGS. The FGS average daily live weight gain (ADG ± s.e.m.) for control and TST group calves was 0.89 ± 0.02 kg and 0.94 ± 0.02 kg day−1, respectively (P = 0.17). In the SGS, all heifers were treated with ivermectin on day 431 due to clinical signs of respiratory disease. The ADG for control and TST heifers from turnout on day 321 to day 431 was 0.90 ± 0.04 and 0.80 ± 0.04 kg day−1, respectively (P = 0.03). Conclusions Spring-born FGS suckler beef calves require minimal anthelmintic treatment to maintain performance. In contrast, clinical parasitic disease may develop in the SGS unless appropriate anthelmintic treatment is provided.
    • Post-epidemic Schmallenberg virus circulation: parallel bovine serological and Culicoides virological surveillance studies in Ireland

      Collins, Áine B; Barrett, Damien; Doherty, Michael L.; Larska, M.; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR), Poland; PBS2/A8/24/2013 (Biomed Central, 2016-10-18)
      Background Schmallenberg virus (SBV) emerged in northern-Europe in 2011 resulting in an epidemic of ruminant abortions and congenital malformations throughout the continent. In the years following the epidemic there have been reports of SBV overwintering and continued circulation in several European countries. When the population-level of immunity declines in exposed regions, re-introduction of SBV could result in further outbreaks of Schmallenberg disease. The aims of this study were to determine the SBV seroprevalence in previously exposed Irish dairy herds in 2014 and to investigate if SBV continued to circulate in these herds in the three years (2013–2015) following the Irish Schmallenberg epidemic. Whole-herd SBV serosurveillance was conducted in 26 herds before (spring) and following the 2014 vector-season (winter), and following the 2015 vector-season (winter). In spring 2014, 5,531 blood samples were collected from 4,070 cows and 1,461 heifers. In winter 2014, 2,483 blood samples were collected from 1,550 youngstock (8–10 months old) and a subsample (n = 933; 288 cows, 645 heifers) of the seronegative animals identified in the spring. Youngstock were resampled in winter 2015. Culicoides spp. were collected in 10 herds during the 2014 vector-season and analysed for SBV; a total of 138 pools (3,048 Culicoides) from 6 SBV vector species were tested for SBV RNA using real-time PCR. Results In spring 2014, animal-level seroprevalence was 62.5 % (cows = 84.7 %; heifers = 0.6 %). Within-herd seroprevalence ranged widely from 8.5 %–84.1 % in the 26 herds. In winter 2014, 22 animals (0.9 %; 10 cows, 5 heifers, 7 youngstock) originating in 17 herds (range 1–4 animals/herd) tested seropositive. In winter 2015 all youngstock, including the 7 seropositive animals in winter 2014, tested seronegative suggesting their initial positive result was due to persistence of maternal antibodies. All of the Culicoides pools examined tested negative for SBV-RNA. Conclusions SBV appears to have recirculated at a very low level in these herds during 2013 and 2014, while there was no evidence of SBV infection in naïve youngstock during 2015. A large population of naïve animals was identified and may be at risk of infection in future years should SBV re-emerge and recirculate as it has done in continental Europe.
    • Prevalence of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVDV), Bovine Herpes Virus 1 (BHV 1), Leptospirosis and Neosporosis, and associated risk factors in 161 Irish beef herds

      Barrett, Damien; Parr, Mervyn; Fagan, John; Johnson, Alan; Tratalos, Jamie; Lively, Francis; Diskin, Michael G.; Kenny, David A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Biomed Central, 2018-01-06)
      Background There are limited data available, in Ireland or elsewhere, to determine the extent of exposure to various endemic diseases among beef cows and factors associated with exposure to causative pathogens. The objectives of this study were to determine the herd and within herd prevalence of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVDV), Bovine Herpes Virus 1 (BHV-1), Leptospirosis and Neosporosis in a large scale study of commercial beef herds on the island of Ireland, and to examine herd level factors associated with exposure to these pathogens in these herds. Results The average number of cows tested per herd was 35.5 (median 30). Herd level seroprevalence to Bovine Herpesvirus-1(BHV-1), Bovine Viral-Diarrhoea Virus (BVDV), Leptospirosis and Neosporosis was 90%, 100%, 91% and 67%, respectively, while the mean within herd prevalence for the these pathogens was 40%, 77.7%, 65.7% and 5.7%, respectively. The study confirms that the level of seroconversion for the four pathogens of interest increases with herd size. There was also evidence that exposure to one pathogen may increase the risk of exposure to another pathogen. Conclusions Herd level seroprevalences were in excess of 90% for BVDV, BHV-1 and Leptosporosis. Larger herds were subject to increased exposure to disease pathogens. This study suggests that exposure to several pathogens may be associated with the further exposure to other pathogens.