The Innovations Changing Animal Health
From artificial intelligence to the next generation of vaccines, we bring together five innovations shaping animal health.
1. Artificial Intelligence in dairy farming
Dairy farmers pride themselves on being able to identify each and every one of their herd. But could a piece of software be even better at recognizing cows’ faces? And why would we need it?
An Irish startup has developed a platform that can identify animals by their features in seconds, matching their profile to data on their movements, water intake and behaviour.
Artificial intelligence then produces analytics to drive on-farm decisions around production, reproduction and overall health.
Cainthus, the startup that has developed the software, recently received an undisclosed equity investment from multinational Cargill, suggesting we may soon see this innovation in practice.
There aren’t many of us who’d think of fresh urine as ‘liquid gold’. But that’s exactly what it is to the emerging field of on-site analysis, according to one leading diagnostic company.
Urine contains vital clinical information on the health of an animal, but begins to decompose just 30 minutes after collection. And so, point-of-care analysis promises accurate evaluation and a higher standard of veterinary care.
A diagnostics speciality firm has developed technology which automatically analyses urine samples in just a few minutes.
Sophisticated software makes use of machine learning and databases to deliver a comprehensive analysis that inform the animal’s care, quicker than ever before.
3. Extreme vaccines
Advances in vaccine technology are allowing this essential veterinary tool to reach ever more remote communities.
Belgian biopharmaceutical company, ViroVet has developed a technology platform that takes cold chain distribution out of the equation.
These vaccines, which can be stable for weeks at temperatures of up to 50°C,
could help overcome some of the major disease challenges in Africa and the Middle East, such as Rift Valley Fever and PPR.
The possibilities could expand even further with the introduction of vaccines in tablet format. Currently in development, these highly portable medicines will dissolve into an easily-administered liquid that eliminates the need for syringes.
4. Innovation in gut health
Gut health has long been a fixture of human wellbeing, but what if it could be used to build the immunity of chicks before they’ve even hatched?
One HealthforAnimals Member has initiated a partnership with a feed technology company to develop a product that utilises an egg antibody as part of an animal’s feed.
As well as enhancing the animal’s own gut health, the technology may mean hens are able to pass antibodies to their offspring and reduce their vulnerability to pathogens.
Nutrition is one of the most lively areas of innovation in animal health; sensors, data and real-time feed analytics are already offering producers the opportunity to optimise feed (and by extension, animal health). It’s a shift that looks set to continue as this technology becomes more affordable.
Breeding disease-resistant animals may be the ultimate aim of much genetic research, but this fast-moving field is also helping to improve medicines.
An international team has investigated immune system responses at a genetic level in pigs infected with different strains of African swine fever virus. The hope is that this understanding will be the starting point for an efficient vaccine.
Meanwhile, Pirbright researchers have genetically modified the virus itself, and believe this modified strain could be utilised as a vaccine. One benefit of this technology is that it allows a vaccine to work more harmoniously with the host’s immune system.
It isn’t just livestock that could benefit from genetic research; UK researchers say they have created a ‘reverse genetics’ vaccine for equine disease AHS that all but eliminates the usual risk factors. It mimics a virus in entering host cells and triggering an immune response.