Animal health and welfare and food security: A key challenge for farmers is to maintain the health and welfare of their animals. Diseased animals are less productive and threaten public health. Chicken meat production provides a good example of an industry needing research support to better control endemic and zoonotic infections. Most UK chickens are infected with Campylobacter and this pathogen caused ~700000 infections in the UK in 2014 and ~200 deaths. Most cases were caused either directly or indirectly by contaminated chicken. ~80% of UK chickens at retail are Campylobacter-positive. The poultry industry does not have the tools to combat Campylobacter and the Centre will work in partnership with stakeholders to provide these.
Likewise, crowding in intensive fish farming tends to diminish the ability of fish to resist infections and this can facilitate the emergence and spread of pathogenic diseases, some of which are expected to become more prevalent with predicted warmer temperatures. Fisheries in Wales contribute approximately £30 million/year to rural and coastal economies, and the Welsh Government aims to double aquaculture production by 2020. However, to achieve long-term sustainability and meet food security demands, aquaculture needs to diversify and to step-up the domestication of aquatic species, which will have to thrive on less food, less space, and less water, all compounded by warmer temperatures. Aquaculture production has grown >ten-fold over the last 20 years but diseases in farmed fish have become a major economic concern due to the great losses caused by infections and the threat they pose to natural populations. Viruses and other parasites are particularly difficult to eradicate and selective breeding of resistant lines and enhancement of the immune response seem the best strategies for fighting them. However, selective breeding often causes stress, poor growth, increased vulnerability to diseases and ultimately reduced fitness. Farmed fish which originate from a reduced number of breeders, under strong selection are comparable to wild bottlenecked fish populations.