10 Questions with Anne Ridler

<p>Anne Ridler, co-author of <em>The Sheep: Health, disease and production</em></p>

Anne Ridler, co-author of The Sheep: Health, disease and production

1. How long have you had an association with this somewhat venerable book?

Dave and Neil wrote the first edition together and I helped revise the second and third editions. I have done the majority of the work for the 4th edition but with input from both of them.


2. What sort of involvement did they have with it, and why was this important?

Despite its several revisions, the majority of the book is still their own work. In my view it is very important that their huge contribution to sheep health and production in New Zealand continues to be recognised and they should remain the main authors on the book.


3. In what key ways is this fourth edition different to its predecessors?

Thanks to Massey University Press, it has had a revamp with much nicer formatting. Several diseases that cause weight loss in adult ewes have been brought together as a single chapter, as vets are most usually presented with a clinical problem rather than a specific disease, and the clinical approach to this problem has been emphasised. All sections have been updated to incorporate relevant recent research. A few new sections have been added on ‘new’ diseases (e.g. Helicobacter abortion, Schmallenberg virus).


4. Is the science around sheep health moving in new directions? 

With new technology, particularly genetics and molecular testing methods, there are new ways of investigating disease. This has allowed scientists to re-visit some of the fundamental concepts (e.g. pathogenesis) of diseases, with some interesting findings. Globally there is a lot of interest in research into sheep welfare – the book does not go into detail on sheep welfare science as that is not its main focus but good health is a key part of good welfare!


5. What’s a condition that’s relatively concerning now that was less prominent when the book first appeared in 1993?

Since the first edition (1993), there has been a lot more focus on anthelmintic resistance and managing sheep systems to slow the development of resistance. Interestingly there is relatively little monitoring of national farm animal disease prevalence so it is hard to answer this question with any degree of accuracy. In the past there was some data available based on veterinary submissions to the centralised Animal Health Laboratories but now that the laboratories are privatised this data is difficult to obtain.


6. Conversely, what conditions have receded in prominence?

See answer above regarding ability to access data relating to disease prominence. We now have very good vaccines for some of the previously common diseases e.g. Toxoplasma and Campylobacter abortions. While these diseases still occur and are very important the widespread use of vaccination mean they presumably occur less frequently that previously.


7. Are there new threats to good sheep health? Climate change, for instance?

The economics of commercial sheep farming are on ongoing issue for the sheep industry - while the majority of farms have good preventative disease programmes, cost is always a consideration and a possible constraint. Ecto-and endoparasiticide resistance are threats the industry has been facing for some time, as well as concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts of some of the ectoparasisticides. Climate change is also a possible threat, especially if weather patterns become more extreme.


8. How did you find the time to work on this book given your busy research and teaching workload?

I had a very tight deadline so I basically just had to get on and do it, which was good as it meant no time for procrastination! Keeping up with recent research in the field is part of my job so that helped. Luckily I’d also attended the 9th International Sheep Veterinary Congress earlier in the year, which meant I was fairly up to date with what is happening globally in the sheep world.


9. What’s one new thing you learnt while working on this book?

There has been quite a bit of recent research into footrot and these studies suggest the previous dogma around the pathogenesis of this condition may be incorrect.


10. What are you reading at the moment, for work and for pleasure?

For work I tend to read a range of material relating to my research and teaching so nothing specific. For pleasure, I love reading fiction in my spare time — I’m a quick reader and get through at least one book a week! I’m currently re-reading Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson.