Engaging livestock clinical staff through research and collaboration

John K. House Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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 BVMS, PhD, DACVIM
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Sam M. Rowe Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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 BVSc, PhD, DABVP
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Ruth N. Zadoks Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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 DVM, PhD
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Katrina L. Bosward Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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Paul A. Sheehy Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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Victoria Brookes Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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Jacqui M. Norris Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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 BVSc, PhD

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The primary function of the Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit at the University of Sydney is to provide clinical training for DVM students. Servicing approximately 40 commercial farms (approx 20,000 head) across New South Wales (NSW) and numerous local hobby farms, it provides a case load of approximately 3,000 individual and herd-level case accessions working across dairy, beef, and small ruminants. The clinical service also provides a conduit to deliver the diversity of skills and technologies within the university to livestock industries, promoting animal health, welfare, and production. Clinical research enhances the clinical service offered and further contributes to clinical teaching, promoting evidenced-based clinical practice and resident training.

Infectious disease prevention, management, and control are areas of research focus. Collaborators from across the university add skills in molecular epidemiology, immunology, and microbiology, complementing the epidemiology, medicine, and production management skills of clinicians. Collaborations with the NSW Department of Primary Industry bring further expertise in virology and molecular diagnostics.

Research collaborations facilitated the recognition of Theileria as an important cause of hemolytic anemia in cattle located and transferred to coastal regions of NSW. Similarly, recognition of the emergence of Mycoplasma bovis in Australian dairy herds led to a body of research to develop and evaluate new diagnostics and epidemiological studies to improve disease management and prevention. Collaboration with Fiona Maunsell from the University of Florida provided an international perspective to this project. Ongoing collaboration with Mike Mahan from the University of California (UC) has been directed at developing and evaluating attenuated live Salmonella vaccines to prevent salmonellosis in livestock. A more recent collaboration with Mike assessed different antimicrobial susceptibility testing methodologies to improve the capacity of antimicrobial susceptibility testing to predict clinical outcomes. Developing strategies to promote effective and responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock production is a current area of research. Collaborations with the University of Minnesota and University of Montreal have focused on the generation of algorithms to predict intramammary infection and development of evidence-based protocols for selective dry cow therapy. An ongoing University of Sydney clinical mastitis study includes collaboration between social scientists (Charles Stuart University), data scientists (University of Technology Sydney), big data (Datagene, a national dairy database), Food Agility CRC (research funding body), and Coles (Australian retailer). The project has utilized cow records from 60,000 clinical mastitis cases to generate an artificial intelligence (AI) model to predict outcomes of clinical mastitis. The AI model is delivered in an app, which links to on-farm pathogen testing to create a mastitis treatment decision protocol that considers both cow history and pathogen characteristics. The logic is to reduce antimicrobial use where it is unlikely to provide benefit.

Meat and Livestock Australia, an industry levy-based research fund, is supporting beef-related research into pinkeye and Coxiella, the causative agent of Q fever. The pinkeye project involves the use of machine learning to develop an app to identify and score ocular lesions. John Angelos from UC-Davis is collaborating on this project. Q fever is a significant zoonotic disease in Australia frequently linked to livestock exposure. Prophylaxis in people is achieved through vaccination, which is required for our veterinary students, much like how rabies vaccination is required in other countries. The cost of Coxiella infection to livestock production systems is poorly defined, largely due to the historical difficulties associated with isolation of the organism. The development of molecular diagnostics has facilitated safe detection of the organism. Current work is investigating the industry-associated production costs in collaboration with Ben Bauer from the University of Hanover and John Morton from Jemora Pty Ltd, a private consultancy company.

Incorporating research into university clinical practice stimulates interest and engagement, helping to attract and retain high-caliber veterinary staff. Collaboration across the university and between institutions both nationally and internationally adds to what can be achieved, contributing to a positive and progressive working environment.

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