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Anti-parasitic medicines: A small group of retail vets want to be in total control

Beef Plan Animal Health Committee shares its views on proposed controls surrounding the sale of anti-parasitic veterinary medicines to farmers.                   

We are highly concerned about new controls being considered around the whole area of selling anti-parasitic remedies to farmers.

There are currently hundreds of merchants around the country that can sell these products to farmers.

We do not have a problem with putting specific measures in place that will ensure responsible use of these products as long as it is in a way that does not put the many merchants out there who currently sell them at a disadvantage.

Anti-parasitic medicines

However, one of the proposals on the table is that farmers must first get a prescription from a veterinary practice and then buy the products from a veterinary practice or a merchant.

If this proposal comes into effect, it puts the merchant at a distinct disadvantage.

It will create an unlevel playing field that effectively throws these merchants under a bus and will eliminate competition.

If we were to look at a highly regulated vaccine, like Rotavec Corona, for example. This is a vaccine that currently you cannot buy with a veterinary prescription.

I recently heard of a case where a farmer got a prescription from his vet to buy it.

Then the vet asked the farmer if they were not going to buy the vaccine off them.

So, the farmer asked the vet what price they were charging. The price was €2/animal more than the farmer’s pharmacist.

The farmer had 100 animals to do. Therefore, they were put under unfair pressure to pay substantially more in this situation.

Prices could double

Reports from other countries where similar measures were introduced suggest that prices for antiparasitic remedies could double as a result.

It appears that what is known as field vets are not pushing for this. They are not set up to carry the large amounts of credit necessary to trade these products to farmers.

However, retail vets are pushing for it. We believe they can see an opportunity to create a monopoly and to increase profits greatly.

Manufacturers, it appears, would also prefer to sell to a smaller number of retail vets as they would also see this as an opportunity to increase margin.

Let us be perfectly clear. Farmers do not have a problem with measures being implemented to ensure responsible use of these products.

Responsible use comes back to five points:

  • Knowledge of farm;
  • Rotation of remedy types;
  • Also, rotation of farm pastures;
  • Climate;
  • Time of year.
What do we propose?

Merchants do not have a problem training someone up in this area to give the farmer the best advice possible.

Many merchants already have a responsible person trained to give expert advice in this area.

The department could easily add another module to the course merchants currently undertaken to ensure all of the problem areas listed above are adequately covered.

This qualified person should then be allowed to prescribe these antiparasitic remedies.

This would mean that farmers:

  • Follow best practice;
  • At the same time, merchants are allowed to trade on a level playing field. This would ensure that competition remains in this area.

A small group of retail vets want to be in total control of the sale of these products to increase their sales and margins.

Such a move would also see the value of their businesses go up substantially, setting them up nicely for a tidy windfall should they decide to sell out to the corporate vet nary institutes which pension fund managers control.

Farmers need competition to remain in the whole area of antiparasitic remedies.

Cartel

If Ireland is not careful, it will create an environment that will encourage and facilitate a cartel in the sector.

On the one hand, we have recently facilitated the removal of family-run veterinary practices and allowed investment funds to purchase large numbers of practices, amalgamate them and inevitably, we believe, offer a poorer, more expensive service to the farmer.

On the other hand, an effort is being made to stop the merchants nationwide from selling animal remedies.

Where this will end up is a handful of very large companies who will be in a position to set the prices of all farm remedies available to Irish farmers.

When a handful of companies find themselves in this position of power, farmers know only too well what it will mean for them.

It will mean that their bottom line will be further squeezed by the might of corporate power that has been facilitated by a government that failed to protect the primary producer and instead gave way to pressures applied by big corporations.

Handing over the full control of the sale of antiparasitic remedies to a few large corporations will do nothing to promote the safe use of these products.

Greed 

Greed will dictate and that these companies in a position of power will sell products that deliver the maximum margins in the maximum quantities.

Advice is important regarding what products to use and how to rotate different doses so that immunity does not build up.

But a system can be implemented that will continue to allow merchants to sell these products so that they can operate on a level playing field.

There are other options other than veterinary prescriptions to ensure best practice is adhered to in this area such as:

  • In-service training sessions for farmers in the use of antiparasitic remedies;
  • A central online prescription service that would be neutral for both merchants and vets.

Farmers can live with tighter controls in this area, but not controls that favour corporation, that will do nothing to promote safer use of these products but will only serve to line the pockets of big corporations run by investment fund managers.

Further reading from Beef Plan:
  • ‘If farmers are deprived of an adequate income there is a temptation to cut corners’ – Read article
  • Suckler-beef is sustainable – Read article
  • ‘Ireland’s suckler herd is unfairly blamed for having a negative environmental impact’ – Access article

To share your opinion on anti-parasitic medicines, email – info@thatsfarming.com

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