Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Equine centre looks beyond core business

The Irish Equine Centre is planning to expand its range of services to non-equine industries

The Irish Equine Centre has been protecting the Irish bloodstock and sport horse industry for over 30 years.
The Irish Equine Centre has been protecting the Irish bloodstock and sport horse industry for over 30 years.

Siobhán English

The expansion of environmental and nutrition testing services to cater for the non-equine industries are among Irish Equine Centre's chief executive Sarah McNicholas's plans for 2016.

A graduate of Trinity College and Brunel University in London, Sarah had a long career in finance before joining the Irish Equine Centre in Johnstown, Co Kildare two years ago.

Her initial target was to diversify services to help finance a facility which has been protecting Ireland's horse population for over 30 years.

"When I came here two years ago I was aware that funding was a problem and that we needed to diversify more to make money," she says.

"In fact the centre has been under-funded since the day it was created.

"However, I am positive that we will make progress in next few months. I know the Department of Agriculture would like to make more of a financial contribution and Brian Kavanagh of Horse Racing Ireland has also been very supportive."

"The environmental testing for racing and performance horses is already hugely popular and (environmental scientist) Alan Creighton is now working with trainers as far as France and Germany," adds Ms McNicholas.

Established in 1983 by Sean Collins in response to an outbreak of Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), the centre has grown from an original three-man team to a current staff of over 55. They work with industry leaders and over 600 veterinary practices throughout Ireland and overseas.

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"We have a large team of people here and they work incredibly hard year-round protecting not only the equine industry but so many other areas too," says Ms McNicholas.

"Research is an important part of what we do, but that all puts a strain on finances as well."

Twelve graduates of the equine science course in the University of Limerick are on the Equine Centre team.

The centre has also attracted a large number of students from across the globe, in particular the Japanese Racing Federation.

Visiting student Manabu Nemoto is currently in Ireland and as part of his studies is examining a newly-emerging disease of horses called Equine Enteric Coronavirus, with animals displaying signs of lethargy and fever, and of which little is known here.

In recent years the testing of diseases in animals other than equines has seen the centre gain further prominence and Ms McNicholas is hoping that this area can also be expanded in the coming months.

These services include the testing of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Johnes disease and mastitis.

The centre also provides a number of diagnostic tests to the sheep industry, including Faecal Cultures, Salmonella Cultures and Fluke Egg Screening, as well as Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRSV).

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