Animal Health Research
The Animal Health Research Unit undertakes research and diagnostic testing on endemic, exotic and emerging diseases of livestock to minimise the impacts of pests and diseases. Research is undertaken in veterinary virology, microbiology, molecular biology, parasitology, pathology, and epidemiology for beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pig, poultry, honey bee, aquaculture and other animal industries. The research provides the science to develop new recommendations to improve livestock production, enhance welfare and maintain market access for the state’s animal products. Research in the areas of food safety microbiology, epidemiology and risk analysis, as well as molecular biology and immunology, is carried out for animal products entering the food chain. This underpins NSW’s and Australia’s position as a major source of high quality food products on the world market.
NSW DPI scientists also develop new diagnostic tests and vaccines and the innovative science needed to underpin surveillance, prevention, control or eradication strategies for significant terrestrial and aquatic animal diseases and pests, both exotic and endemic. They are involved in control programs for sheep footrot, internal and external parasites, Johne's disease, and, other endemic diseases. They also provide significant animal health inputs to the Pork Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
Sound science is used to develop management strategies to reduce the risks of human foodborne pathogens and chemical contaminants entering the food processing chain on the farm. Research involves epidemiological surveys of antibiotic resistance and investigates the spread of antibiotic resistance between animal and human bacteria. Tests are developed to identify, validate and reliably detect probiotic bacteria (which help protect against gastro-intestinal illnesses), to reduce the use of antibiotics in the intensive animal industries.
This unit is divided into:
- The Virology Team, which is a world class facility providing diagnostic and research services into viral diseases of commercial livestock and wildlife. Research programs have been developed cooperatively with industry to investigate significant diseases in livestock and make recommendations on effective control programs. The major emphasis is on identification of new and emerging viral diseases, development of improved diagnostic tests and vaccine production, and certification testing to facilitate overseas trade. Major programs currently involve Pestivirus in all animal species (the Virology Laboratory at EMAI is a World Reference Laboratory for Pestiviruses) and Arboviruses in cattle and sheep.
- The Microbiological Diseases and Diagnostics Team, provides specialist services for a range of bacterial, parasitological and immunological research into diseases of commercial livestock and aquaculture. Applied research is currently undertaken in the fields of pig respiratory disease, Johne’s disease, external parasites of sheep, enteric diseases in the intensive animal industries, bee diseases, zoonotic diseases and aquatic disease. Staff help to develop management strategies based on sound science to reduce the risks of human pathogens entering the food processing chain from the farm and reduce the level of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food. The research is supported by industry and commercial partners to develop improved diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to support disease control programs and minimise the impact of disease.
Key research achievements
- New diagnostic tests for pleuropneumonia and mycoplasma pneumonia in pigs to improve disease control.
- Better understanding of feed conversion efficiency in the pig industry by studying carcase composition and using computer modelling to assess the effect of disease on pig nutrition, growth and carcase composition.
- Collaborative tests with vaccine manufacturers to evaluate existing and new swine erysipelas vaccines.
- Improved diagnostic tests for ovine Johne’s disease and development of options for control using vaccine.
- Development of a rapid and reliable test to detect the presence of sheep lice at shearing, allowing reduction of non-essential dipping to control this parasite.
- Review of current industry practices using organophosphate chemicals to treat sheep lice, with recommendations on more effective, safe and environmentally considerate chemical use.
- Facilitating overseas trade in livestock by providing technical leadership for the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program. This involves improving understanding of the geographical distribution of important viral diseases and developing diagnostic tests.
- Development of vaccines to control pestivirus in cattle – a major cause of reproductive loss through reduced conception, stillbirths and calf abnormalities.
- Improved understanding of the role of Bungowannah Virus in the Porcine Myocarditis Syndrome
- Improved diagnostic tests to support the Enzootic Bovine Leucosis (EBL) Control Program – a major program to control this important viral disease in dairy cattle.
- Development of tests and management systems for a range of diseases affecting aquatic animals (fish, molluscs and crustaceans) in aquaculture.
- Development of management strategies for effective control of small hive beetles in honey bee hives.
- Improved understanding of new honey bee diseases, including Nosema and its role in Colony Collapse Disorder.
- Reduced use of antibiotics in the pig industry by developing alternative strategies, such as Lawsonia vaccines and probiotics, to improve enteric health and feed conversion efficiency.
Promoting healthy and safe industries through better understanding of the epidemiology of food-borne pathogens.
Key research infrastructure
The Animal Health Research Unit works mainly from state-of-the-art biotechnology and veterinary laboratory facilities at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) at Menangle. There are also strong links with NSW DPI facilities in Wollongbar, Orange and Armidale, as well as with field veterinarians, both private and industry.
Key research collaborations
The Animal Health Research Unit collaborates extensively with industry, through funding bodies co-investing in projects, and cooperatively with other research organisations on specific projects.
Research funders: Rural Industries R&D (research and development) Corporation; Meat and Livestock Australia; Australian Wool Innovation; Australian Pork Ltd; Dairy Australia; Pork CRC; Value Added Wheat CRC; Australian Research Council; McGarvie Smith Institute; Commonwealth Dept of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Biosecurity Australia; National Health and Medical Research Council.
University and other R&D providers: Universities of Sydney, Wollongong, Macquarie, UTS, NSW, New England, Queensland, Australian National University, Murdoch, Monash, Melbourne, James Cook and Tasmania; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; other state, territory and Commonwealth departments of primary industries; and the Australian Wildlife Health Network.
International: Universities of Guelph (Canada), Berne (Switzerland), Louisiana, Iowa, Connecticut, Washington and USDA (USA), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (New Zealand) and ACIAR (Thailand and Indonesia)
Animal Health and Food
Phone: 6391 3248