Current Other Research Projects

Chair Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety
Topical and cryoanaesthesia for livestock husbandry
Assessment of risks to animal biosecurity associated with small landholders
Healthy Dogs, Healthy Communities
The impact of education about dog health on human health
Attitudes of Chinese Veterinary & Non-Veterinary students
Network in Animal and Human Health


A new unit in Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety at the University of Sydney

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Michael Ward
Professor Richard Whittington

Summary

In 1999 the gross value of Australian livestock production was $13.4bn of which $11.5bn came from exports. The Australian economy and the rural sector depend on this trade, which is based on efficient production, marketing, quality assurance and access to major markets in the developed world. Most of these markets have a favourable status for the major epidemic diseases of livestock. Compared to many competitors, Australia enjoys privileged access due to the historical absence of important livestock diseases.
This project was undertaken because a critical shortage of the skills required by the livestock industries is looming. The loss of animal health laboratories, trained livestock health specialists, together with the loss of government employed district veterinary officers and epidemiologists, has dramatically weakened the national defences against disease incursions, threats to product integrity and market access.
The aim of this project was to establish a new teaching and research unit in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. Research and training programs in epidemiology, disease surveillance, pathobiology and food safety were developed and delivered to postgraduate and undergraduate students. A new post graduate degree program in Veterinary Public Health Management commenced. Ties were established with overseas universities to enable future development of joint teaching and research programs. Staff from the unit are active in the research community, in industry groups and the media, ensuring wide communication of research results. Staff work together with stakeholders in the livestock sector to promote the benefits of the research programs. This MLA project has led to immediate benefits for industry, and many of these will endure into the long term: undergraduate veterinary students are better equipped to enter rural veterinary practice; graduates working in animal health now have a flexible post graduate coursework program to learn skills in epidemiology and public health for immediate application; a steady stream of young post graduates is becoming available to fill retirement positions; young post doctoral fellows and PhD research students have greater opportunity to work on real world problems and provide service longer term to the livestock sector; significant critical mass now exists to conduct research on priority livestock health issues.

Source of Funding

Meat & Livestock Australia

Project Timeframe

January 2006 - January 2012


Topical and cryoanaesthesia for livestock husbandry

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Professor Peter Windsor

PhD Student

Ms Sabrina Lomax

National Collaborators

Associate Professor Peter Wynn, Charles Sturt University
Dr Robert Cranna, Bayer Australia Limited
Dr Meredith Sheil, Animal Ethics Pty Limited

Summary

Painful husbandry procedures – tail –docking, castration, dehorning, ear-knotching, branding, and mulesing (sheep only) – are routinely conducted without analgesia in Australian livestock, resulting in acute pain and stress responses in millions of young animals each year. This is rapidly becoming a critical animal welfare issue, with important social, political and commercial ramifications. To date, practical and economic constraints have bee a barrier to the development of effective pain management strategies.

The aim of the project is to address this issue by investigating the use of topical and cryo-anaesthesia as an effective, practical and cost-effective analgesic option that can be used on-farm for large-scale production systems. Specific aims:

  • To develop a novel technique of achieving rapid pre-operative local tissue anaesthesia using cryo-anaesthesia with supercooled CO2 gas application to wooled or fur covered skin;
  • To investigate the impact of using (i) pre-operative cryo-anaesthesia and (ii) post-operative topically applied local anaesthetic applications, both alone and in combination, during those painful routine animal husbandry procedures on:
    - pain prevention and alleviation, using an indicator of pain and stress that the CIs are developing (direct sensory testing), and conventional indicators such as beta endorphin and cortisol, and behavioural analysis of treated and untreated animals; and
    - recovery indicators such as animal behaviour, blood loss, wound healing, and weight gain, including a powerful digital wound-mapping technique that the CIs are developing.
  • To develop a novel biochemical approach to measure acute adrenergic responses in lymphocytes isolated from animals subjected to the production procedures. This will be assessed by quantifying tyrosine phosphorylation of β2-adrenergic receptors in lymphocytes. It has been shown previously with pigs, this technique provides a measure for reliabity and indicating the magnitude of the acute response to stress.

Source of Funding

Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Project Timeframe

January 2008 - December 2011


Assessment of the risks to animal biosecurity associated with small landholders 3.086R

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Dr Marta Hernandez Jover
Dr Jenny-Ann Toribio
Dr Trish Holyoake

National Collaborators

Dr Tony Martin, Project Leader
Department of Agriculture & Fisheries Western Australia (DAFWA)
Dr Danny Roberts, DAFWA
Dr Neil Guise, DAFWA
Dr Nina Kung, Queensland Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries
Dr Sandy McKenzie, Queensland DPI&F
Dr Patricia Swift, Queensland DPI&F
Dr David Pitt, Queensland DPI&F

Summary

It is commonly said that “peri-urban small landholders” or “hobby farmers” pose biosecurity threats to mainstream livestock production in Australia. Just what these threats might be, and their magnitude and significance within the arena of Australian animal biosecurity, have not been defined. In recent years the increasing numbers of “lifestyle farmers” and small landholders have been studied by various researchers aiming to define who they are, what motivates them, and their Biosecurity-related and other attitudes and practices. This project aims to build on this work, and to identify a series of animal Biosecurity risks associated with small landholders around Australia. The magnitude of these risks will be assessed both in absolute terms and relative to the magnitude of equivalent risks not involving small landholders. The project this sets out to determine whether, for selected threats to Australian livestock (such as epidemics of exotic disease), small landholders add significantly to the risks.

The project will tap into existing knowledge of small landholders by holding a project planning workshop in conjunction with the National Small Landholder Extension Forum to be held in April 2008. From the planning workshop a series of risk assessments (RAs) will be designed, and these will be carried out ion NSW, WA and possible Queensland. Consistency and collaboration will be assured through a series of project meetings. Two of the RAs will build directly on the recently completed USyd ABCRC project on surveillance in peri-urban pigs in eastern Australia.

Outcomes of the project will be reports of the RAs, which end-users may then take to inform policy decisions on prioritisation and resource allocation in the areas of animal biosecurity and small landholder engagement. Risk analysis also involves risk management and risk communication, and this project will identify appropriate potential risk mitigation opportunities, and in partnership with the National Small Landholder Extension Network will lay the groundwork for any necessary communication programs.

Project Funding

Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre for Emerging Infectious Disease

Project Timeframe

October 2007 - September 2009


Healthy Dogs, Healthy Communities: Evaluating the impact of new interdisciplinary interventions to enhance dog health and welfare in remote indigenous communities

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

  • Dr Robert Dixon
    Dr Jenny-Ann Toribio
    Mr Graeme Brown

PhD Students

  • Ms Sophie Constable
    Ms Jade Norris

National Collaborators

Dr Richard Malik, Faculty of Veterinary Science
Mrs Roselyn Dixon, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong
Ms Shelley Walton, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin

Summary

This project, which focuses on the dog, also recognises that the dog harbours a number of diseases that can infect humans. It examines the relationships between culturally-appropriate education, dog health and welfare, and human health and welfare in Indigenous communities.

The project will document the health and welfare of dogs, institute dog health programs and use these data in an educational intervention to improve the health and welfare outcomes of dogs in these communities.
It aims to demonstrate that the improvement of the health and welfare of dogs through sustainable dog health programs is directly due to the specifically-designed educational intervention and that the improvement of dog health and welfare will also impact on human health and welfare in Indigenous communities. Dog health programs will indirectly improve the expectations, standards and self-worth of many Indigenous Australians. As a consequence, the national benefits include the development of environmentally sustainable Indigenous communities, and the strengthening of Australia 's social and economic fabric especially in rural and remote areas.

Source of Funding

Australian Research Council Linkage Grant
Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities
RSPCA NSW
Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Association
IDEXX Laboratories Australia

Project Timeframe

January 2007- December 2009


Healthy Dogs, Healthy Communities: The impact of education about dog health on human health outcomes

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health STaff

Dr Robert Dixon
Dr Graeme Brown

Students

Ms Sophie Constable
Ms Jade Norris
Ms Layla Schrieber

National Collaborators

Ms Julia Hardaker,
Animal Management in Rural and Remote Communities
Ms Verna Simpson, Humane Society International

Summary

The project will explore the impact that education about dog health and welfare will have on the human health burden in 2 remote Aboriginal Communities in the Northern Territory, one in the desert, the other in the tropics. The change in human clinical data, especially those associated with zoonoses will be measured over time, before and after the introduction of a culturally relevant education program. Disease surveys of dogs will be undertaken twice a year to assess the background level of disease over a period of three years.

Source of Funding

Humane Society International

Project Timeframe

June 2007 - June 2010


Attitudes of Chinese Veterinary and Non-Veterinary University Students towards the Ethical Treatment and Welfare of Animals

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

Dr Robert Dixon
Dr Lun Li (Faculty Associate)

International Collaborators

Staff of the School of Veterinary Science, Shanxi Agricultural University China

Summary

This project aims to explore existing attitudes to animal welfare in veterinary students and non-veterinary students at Shanxi Agricultural University, China. This is being done in order to prepare new culturally appropriate animal welfare education resources for introduction into the University’s Veterinary Curriculum, the first inclusion of the study of animal welfare in any University Veterinary Curriculum in China. Graduating veterinarians will then be better prepared to improve animal welfare standards in China, a direction sanctioned by the Central Government of China.

Project Timeframe

June 2008 - June 2009

Interdisciplinary Network in Animal and Human Health

Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health Staff

  • Ms Meg Vost
    Dr Nicholas Malikides

National Collaborators

Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre
for Emerging Infectious Disease

Summary

The clear and strong parallels between human and animal health have been recognised for millennia. Recent collaborative endeavours in developing and industrialised countries between the World Health Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and the Office International des Epizooties have redefined the role of veterinary public health and have involved veterinarians and other health professionals and scientists in a broad range of government and non-government sectors. However, in Australia, few lasting and significant collaborations have been formed between veterinary and medical science, and education, training and research activities in animal and human health have remained only tenuously linked.

In 2004, the veterinary, medical, and public health schools of the University of Sydney and public health institutions within Sydney and New South Wales formed a working group, the Interdisciplinary Network in Public Health (INPH). The INPH now has an expanding group of representatives from the University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital and the Public Health units in Lismore, Broken Hill, and Moree. Meeting every four months by teleconference, the INPH aims to create key partnerships between multiple health disciplines, including epidemiology, environmental and occupational health, clinical veterinary and human medicine and public health, pathology, wildlife and agricultural science, and to enhance, and capitalise on members' areas of expertise in teaching, research and community service.

Joint projects in infectious diseases of public health importance, seminars given by experts in emerging infectious diseases and development of a unique animal and human based zoonoses fact sheet website were the major tasks of the INPH for 2004-2005. Through conferences related to communicable diseases, and through major government, industry, university and international organisations such as the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre for Emerging Infectious Disease and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, we aim to enhance these and other similar initiatives while promoting the need for ongoing interdisciplinary animal and human health collaboration.

Source of Funding

Multi-institutional

Project Timeframe

February 2004 - Ongoing