25 May 2022

Longford Leader Farming: Farmers close to 100% compliant with management of antibiotics


ICSA senior officials have rubbished claims farmers do not understand, or ignore withdrawal periods, when using antibiotics to treat livestock

ICSA animal health and welfare chairperson, Hugh Farrell, has dismissed the idea that farmers do not understand, or ignore withdrawal periods, when using antibiotics to treat livestock.

Mr Farrell was speaking in response to comments made by Chris Elliot, a professor in Food Safety at Queens University Belfast, who appeared as part of a Primetime show aired on Tuesday, April 6.

“The correct use of antibiotics in the treatment of livestock is a central part of Bord Bia inspections and is also a requirement for cross compliance under the CAP funded schemes,” said Mr Farrell.

“Under the CAP schemes, around 7,000 farm inspections are carried out annually - many of which focus on animal medicines - so farmers are highly conscious of all the issues surrounding the management and correct use of antibiotics on farm. In addition, the animal remedy register and medicines cabinet is a central part of the inspection process for the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme in which all participants are audited at least once every 18 months.”

Mr Farrell said his assessment is supported by the fact that out of almost 17,000 samples taken from farms and food processing facilities here there was an issue with just 53, which is one third of 1%.

“Any comprehensive residue testing regime which shows a compliance rate of 99.7% proves conclusively that the system is working well, and the tiny number of infractions could potentially be accounted for by basic human error.”

“The report gives clarity that there is little, or no antibiotic residue found. This reinforces the fact that our farmers are working professionally and diligently and to the highest standards. It is also important to note that most animals who are treated with antibiotics are not factory fit, in that they are mostly cows post calving, or calves experiencing respiratory difficulties.

“This further reduces any potential for antibiotic residues to enter the food chain.

“Our farmers have proven themselves to be close to 100% compliant around the use of antibiotics, and a result like this shows that the issue has been blown out of all proportion by the veterinary union. As indicated during the piece, the regulator in the North may have some issues to resolve, but this should in no way imply any issue with regulation in the south.”

IFA animal health chairman, Pat Farrell agreed Ireland's veterinary medicines regime is extremely robust, and stressed farmers' use of veterinary medicines are of the highest standards.

“Farmers understand and comply with withdrawal periods when treating our animals. We are the people legally responsible for the health and welfare of all the animals under our care, despite spurious unfounded claims to the contrary by one contributor to the RTE programme,” he said.

Mr Farrell said IFA, the Department of Agriculture and industry stakeholders work together on the National Antimicrobial Committee, developing strategies that ensure antibiotics are prescribed and used responsibly, which effectively addresses the concerns associated with Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

“Comments by Veterinary Ireland reps on the programme about 'industrial type farms' and alleging the illegal importation of veterinary medicines from Northern Ireland are grossly misleading,” said Mr Farrell.

He said the Department is currently deciding how to implement the new EU Veterinary Medicines Regulation in 2022.

“The Minister for Agriculture must resist the concerted effort by the veterinary lobby to restrict access to all veterinary medicines to vets only, which could result in a dangerous conflict of interest,” he said.

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