Healthier stock for dairy farmers

April 30, 2015

PhD candidate Jane Kelley’s research could be a breakthrough for the dairy industry.

JANE KELLEY PhD student, LaTrobe University AgriBio

FOR RESEARCHER Jane Kelley, helping an individual farmer is just as rewarding as knowing that she is helping the entire dairy industry overcome one of its biggest threats to milk productivity – a parasite called liver fluke.

“When I finish my lab work, I can email the vet to inform them that they need to treat now,” she says. “The end product for the farmer will be healthier stock, which is important from a welfare perspective and also for increased productivity for the farmer.”

Kelley, who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria, was the recipient of the Dairy Australia Award at the 2014 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The award came with a grant that has enabled her to use a cutting-edge diagnostic technique to investigate the prevalence and burden of liver fluke on Victorian dairy farms. This is the first time the new technique – developed in 2004 by a group of Spanish scientists – has been used in large-scale field trials in naturally infected cattle.

The liver fluke parasite currently costs the Australian livestock industry $60–90 million every year. Kelley hopes her undergraduate research, which she is now continuing as a PhD student, will help generate improved methods for managing the parasite to a point at which the impact on milk production and animal welfare is minimal.

– Gemma Chilton

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