Herd Health & Animal Husbandry

Staff across the Herd Health & Animal Husbandry Section are involved in a wide range of research areas.

Veterinary Public Health & Food Safety

Research within the discipline of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety assesses the prevalence and characterisation of significant zoonotic foodborne pathogens in animals and foods of animal origin and investigating the significance of potential risk factors in the transmission of these hazards. Work also includes evaluating the effectiveness of various controls and novel processing technologies to reduce pathogens and spoilage organisms in foods.  Paul Whyte, Catherine McAloon, Joe Meade and Kevina McGill work in this area.

Reproductive Biology Research

Understanding maternal – embryo communication during early pregnancy in cattle

We have an ongoing interest in deterring the mechanisms through which the early embryo and uterine endometrium communicate to understand the biology of early embryo development in cattle.  This was initially funded by an SFI cluster grant and outputs from this grant are continuing.

Development of biomarkers of early pregnancy status in dairy cows (Funded by SFI 13/IA/2025)

Based on the work on embryo – uterine communication we are developing genomic, proteomic and glycomic biomarkers of early pregnancy status.  The aim is to develop biomarkers that can be measured in milk so that a cow side test of early pregnancy status can be determined.

Genomics and Phenomics in dairy cattle production (GplusE grant EUFP7 613689)

The requirement for sustainable food production is a global issue to which the EU contributes as a major livestock producer. It is critical to improve animal production efficiency while sustaining environmentally and climate friendly milk production. More profitable dairy production requires increased milk yield, cow health, longevity and fertility; reduced environmental and climate footprint and optimised use of inputs.  These are multifactorial problems to address.  The GplusE project involved 15 partners across 6 EU member states plus a partner in China and one in the USA.  GplusE aimed to identify the genotypes controlling biological variation in the important phenotypes of dairy cows, to appreciate how these are influenced by environmental and management factors and thus allow more informed and accurate use of genomic selection. GplusE has linked new genomic data in dairy cows to a comprehensive array of phenotypic information going well beyond those existing traits recorded by dairy breeding organisations. It has developed systems that will focus herd and cow management on key time points in production that will influence the rest of the productive cycle including efficiency, environment, physiological status, health, fertility and welfare.  This will significantly advance the science, efficiency and management practices in dairy production well beyond the current state-of-the art. Dissemination activities have included videos, training schools, scientific presentations, scientific publications etc.  Many additional publications will emerge from this work over the next number of years.

Factors Driving Reproductive Efficiency in Dairy Cows

Reproductive performance at herd level is multifactorial and, as such, is affected by a multitude of diseases and management factors. Data from farmers from the UCD Herd Health group in Kildare is used to elucidate some of these factors, one of them being the effect of uterine disease on future reproductive performance, and another being factors associated with heat detection accuracy.  

Early diagnosis of post partum uterine disease for enhancement of reproduction and improved cow health (Funded by Stimulus 13/S/472) aims to develop early biomarkers for the development of uterine disease in dairy cows and is in the final stages of the research face with disseminations and outputs ongoing. 

Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare Science, Veterinary Behavioural Medicine and Veterinary Ethics are key research themes of Associate Professor Alison Hanlon. Her research focuses on stakeholder perceptions and experience of animal welfare, behaviour and ethical issues. For example ‘SWAB’ (Surveillance Welfare and Biosecurity) is a transdisciplinary project, which uses participatory methods to design ‘practice-ready toolkits’ in the pig, dairy and poultry sectors.  

Mastitis Research

Assistant Professor Eoin Ryan is currently engaged in a research project, in conjunction with Nola Leonard from our Veterinary Pathobiology Section and Orla Keane and Javier Caballero from Teagasc in relation to the impact of different Staphylococcus aureus genotypes on mastitis epidemiology and milk processing.  Eoin has previously contributed to a pan-European Staphylococcus aureus mastitis study looking at differences in genotypes of Staph aureus across a number of European countries.

Bovine Bits and Bovine Herdmentor

Eoin Ryan and David Kilroy (Veterinary Biosciences Section) are working with the UCD Innovation Academy on a case-based online innovative interactive educational tool called Bovine Bits with the objective of advancing the teaching and learning of bovine clinical medicine and surgery to veterinary undergraduates.  Eoin is also involved in gathering field data, using 360 video, to develop a herd health investigation training tool for undergraduate veterinary students as well as established practitioners looking to increase their knowledge in the area of herd health management.

Clinical Research

Members of the Herd Health & Animal Husbandry Team also investigate herd health problems throughout Ireland and this has led to some notable clinical research including the discovery of Bovine Besnoitiosis, a previously undiagnosed exotic skin disease of cattle in Co. Tipperary by Eoin Ryan.  Other clinical research publications include an investigation of a bovine Tuberculosis outbreak in a herd of alpaca, an epidemiological study of left displacement of the abomasum in conjunction with veterinary practitioners in Cork, the diagnosis of bovine erythropoeitic protoporphyrria in a Limousin heifer, the identification and documentation of a genetic condition, dermatospraxis, in a Limousin calf, surgical removal of a uterine leiomyoma, and surgical removal of a metallic wire from the thorax of a cow via standing thoractotomy.

Please click here to access staff profiles for the UCD Herd Health & Animal Husbandry Team.