General information

Part of: Animal disease diagnostic services

Area of Expertise:

General information for animal health diagnostic customers


The main customers of the diagnostic service are livestock, poultry and fish farmers and poultry organisations, through their private veterinary surgeons.

Samples from farm animals including poultry are examined at the request of private veterinary surgeons.

Fish may be accepted directly from the owner when submission through a veterinary surgeon is impracticable.

The results of testing on all species are reported directly to the nominated veterinary surgeon.


  • Bacteriology
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Haematology
  • Parasitology
  • Pathology
  • Serology
  • Virology

Disease outbreaks

Many animal diseases can be caused by multiple infectious agents e.g.

  • Abortion: 
    Salmonella, Leptospira, Brucella, Neospora spp.
  • Enteritis: 
    E. coli, rotavirus, coronavirus, cryptosporidia
  • Pneumonia: 
    PI3 and RS viruses, Mycoplasma bovis, Haemophilus somnus, Pasteurella spp.

Laboratory testing is therefore essential for the identification of the precise cause so that the most effective control measures can be implemented.

Herd health information

Knowledge of the disease status of a herd or flock can be used to improve economic returns and benefit animal welfare.

Animals with subclinical disease do not show outward signs but may have reduced levels of production due to, for example, nutritional imbalances or parasitic infections.

Herd infection with bovine virus diarrhoea (BVD) virus may manifest as reduced fertility, scours, wasting, illthrift or death.

  • Metabolic Profiles: Tests on blood samples from a selection of animals in the herd or flock can be used to detect deficiencies in minerals such as magnesium, selenium, cobalt or copper, and nutritional imbalances restricting production.
  • Serological Screenings: Blood or milk samples can be tested for evidence of infection with viruses such as BVD so that control or eradication programmes can be initiated. 
    Bulk tank milk testing
    AFBI disease surveillance price list
  • RT-PCR testing: Blood, milk and ear tissue samples can be tested by real time RT-PCR for BVDV, offering a cost-effective tool for identification of persistently infected animals.
    BVDV testing real time PCR
    AFBI disease surveillance price list
  • Parasite Status: 
    Anthelmintic treatments can be targeted more effectively by first analysing manure samples for worm or fluke eggs.

Submission of samples for diagnostic testing

Samples or carcases of farm animals may be submitted to AFBI through a veterinary surgeon. (Farmed poultry and fish specimens can be accepted directly from the farmer or organisation when it is impracticable to involve a veterinary surgeon).

Turnaround times

AFBI aims to complete tests and report results as quickly as possible; turnaround time depends on the nature of the test but many results are provided to the customer on the day of receipt of the sample.

Quality assurance

AFBI strives to ensure the highest level of accuracy in diagnostic testing. AFBI scores consistently  highly in national and international quality assurance programmes.

The internationally recognised ISO 17025 accreditation standard has been achieved for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and chemical surveillance testing.

A continuous programme of training is in place to ensure that AFBI staff are up to date with the latest veterinary diagnostic techniques.

New test development

AFBI aims to be at the forefront of method development and is continually introducing new techniques for the detection of disease-causing agents.

Current tests include PCR, ELISA, in situ hybridisation, immunofluorescence and immunoperoxidase labelling, and electron microscopy.

Other activities

In addition to diagnostic testing, AFBI also carries out import/export testing of farm animals, testing of sires for use in artificial insemination services, non-regulatory testing of poultry for evidence of salmonella infection and a small volume of diagnostic testing on samples from companion animals (excluding post-mortem examinations).

A large volume of regulatory testing is carried out in support of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's animal disease eradication and surveillance schemes, and food safety programmes.