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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 7. June 13, 1945

Agriculture Dept. Tackles Animal Disease Problems

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Agriculture Dept. Tackles Animal Disease Problems

Problems of Animal Research in New Zealand was the subject of an interesting lecture given by Dr. Filmer, Director of Animal Research, to a well-attended meeting of the Biological Society.

Animal research in this country is controlled by a Division of the Department of Agriculture. The work is carried on at two main centers. The Wallace-ville laboratory is surrounded by a fair area of indifferent land and research equipment equal to any in the world. This institution concentrates mainly on disease problems of economic animals. The other center is the Ruakura State Farm, near Hamilton. Here there are 900 acres of the best land in New Zealand, on which large herds of farm animals are maintained, the emphasis in research being on animal production.

Problems involving local investigation are dealt with by the purchase of land and by the building of facilities on the spot, e.g., the investigation of cobalt deficiency disease, localised animal nutrition problems and facial eczema research must be studied in Situ.

Discussing staff. Dr. Filmer said that about fifty university graduates and 150 technicians are employed in this work.

The Division's aims are frankly economic, that is, they aim to assist the increased efficiency of animal production. Dr. Filmer explained that fundamental research is extremely important; but the application of the principles thus discovered also requires extreme ingenuity, a great deal of work and much disappointment.

Dr. Filmer then outlined a few of the outstanding problems now under investigation.

Bush sickness is a disease of cattle and sheep which is marked by anemic and stunted growth. B. C. Aston, a New Zealand chemist, effected the first cure by administration of limo-nite (an iron ore), working on the assumption that the animals were lacking iron. Later in Australia it was found that cobalt in trace quantities in the limo-nite and not the iron was the active principle. A survey of New Zealand pastures for cobalt content followed a brilliant discovery by a New Zealand chemist of a technique for measuring trace quantities of cobalt in grass. Application of cobalt to affected pastures is now eradicating the disease.

Dr. Filmer outlined the present position of copper deficiency and a bacterial disease causing abortion and poor lactation in cows. Preparation of vaccines has reduced the incidence of this disease in 1,200 cows from 20% to 3%.

In answer to a question, Dr. Filmer explained that facial eczema research has come up against very considerable obstacles and although a great deal is known about the disease a complete solution of the problem cannot be expected for some time.

Dr. Filmer concluded his lecture with a summary of the possibilities of VUC graduates obtaining positions with the Division. An insatiable curiosity, a critical intelligence, a suspicion of things that cannot be proved by experiment, a tenacity of purpose, an implacable honesty and a philosophical attitude in face of disappointment, are chief amongst the requirements of research workers. If anyone has these attributes as well as a suitable scientific degree, Dr. Filmer is always willing to interview him about a position with the Division.