May 24, 2006 | By: Holly Wiemers

Traditionally, Kentucky’s agricultural industry has had a limited arsenal of tools at its disposal to track and respond to animal diseases. That will soon change with the recent announcement by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center that a software system has been selected to power Kentucky’s first integrated and real-time animal health information system.

A partnership was formed during the past year between the LDDC, Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville and the state veterinarian’s office to improve Kentucky’s ability to manage the laboratories and more effectively monitor animal diseases. After extensive research, the group selected CAI, Inc., of Harrisburg, Penn., to build an integrated animal health information system in accordance with Kentucky’s unique design requirements. In addition, the Lexington software engineering firm, Hensley, Elam and Associates Inc., is in the process of developing software that dovetails with the new network and will aid in real-time statistical analysis of disease data. 

“This is a huge leap forward for agriculture in Kentucky,” said Craig Carter, LDDC epidemiologist and LDDC LIMS (laboratory information management system) steering committee chair. “The complete integration and ongoing analysis of animal health information is the only effective means of preparing for and dealing with endemic and emerging diseases.”

According to Carter, CAI, Inc. has already developed a software system for Pennsylvania’s state veterinarian office. This same system will be customized for Kentucky’s unique needs and implemented in the Lexington and Hopkinsville labs by July 2007, fully integrating the two labs and the state veterinarian’s office for the first time. This integration will greatly improve the overall efficiency of diagnostic information management at both laboratories, lead to quicker turnaround time for laboratory testing and provide better overall disease surveillance for Kentucky’s animal agriculture. 

“The new system is part of an overall effort to connect the labs to our office. Dr. Carter has been a huge help in this process and we anticipate that this system will be a tremendous success,” said Robert Stout, Kentucky State Veterinarian. 

“We’re excited about getting the new system up and running,” said Carey Laster, avian pathologist with the Breathitt Veterinary Center and that lab’s LIMS steering committee chair. “This is going to be an opportunity for all the lab systems to be on the same page and share information with the state vet’s office so we have a better handle on what’s happening in the state.”

Carter explained that the new system will offer many benefits to Kentucky, including a near real-time analysis of health events involving animals. This analysis will be conducted on information gathered at the farm level and in the laboratories. The network will then generate automated alerts to key stakeholders, such as the state veterinarian, when clusters of events exceed a statistical threshold. These alerts will allow for the earliest field response to emerging diseases, such as West Nile, Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome and Avian Flu, as well as providing early detection of possible agri-terrorist attacks. 

Another important aspect of the system will be the use of sophisticated disease mapping applications that will aid the state veterinarian’s office in its emergency response to animal diseases.

“Situational awareness to where all animals at risk are located will be invaluable in providing an effective response to disease outbreaks,” Carter explained. 

In addition, he said, the new system will generate maps, charts and disease trend data on the Web to help veterinarians and farmers around the state stay current regarding animal disease prevalence. 

“This new software represents the efforts of the University of Kentucky to support a bold and innovative step in disease surveillance. We value the commitment and trust shown by each of the partners and we commend the LDDC for initiating this productive enterprise,” said Nancy Cox, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station director and UK College of Agriculture associate dean for research. “We are especially proud to have the talents of Craig Carter in Kentucky.”

The LIMS package is part of a comprehensive statewide effort that includes the enhancement of facilities for the LDDC and Hopkinsville labs. This effort includes a request for funding for a second phase of enhancements geared to help the LDDC gain full accreditation. The LDDC currently operates under a provisional accreditation due, in part, to the outdated condition of its facilities. While funding for phase two enhancements was not awarded in 2006, the lab will continue to pursue efforts to secure funding for the necessary enhancements. 


Craig Carter, (859) 253-0571