The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland outlines how farmers can reduce antimicrobial usage on their farms.
Agriculture has a key role to play in reducing the amount of antimicrobials used to reduce resistance.
Farmers can reduce antimicrobial resistance by using antibiotics and anthelmintics correctly and only when necessary.
‘Antimicrobial’ is the general term for all drugs which aim to kill harmful microbes. Antibiotics are the best known of these drugs. However, there are others, such as antivirals, antimalarial drugs and antifungals.
Antimicrobial Resistance arises when some of the micro-organisms that cause infection adapt to survive exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them or stop their growth.
This can lead to micro-organisms, which can no longer be treated successfully with the range of antimicrobials currently available.
In 2016, the O’Neill report highlighted the global problem of antimicrobial resistance and the recommendations to address the issue.
Reduce antimicrobial usage on farms
There are some simple ways to reduce antimicrobial use on-farm, such as:
- Prevent or reduce disease incidence on-farm by developing an animal health plan in conjunction with your vet, which includes routine preventative treatments. For FQAS, you must complete an antibiotic usage review within 18 months in conjunction with your vet;
- Secondly, promote good biosecurity on your farm;
- When buying in animals, check the testing history and satisfy yourself about the disease status of the animals and the herd/flock from which they came;
- Furthemore, at the first signs of illness, isolate sick animals to prevent the spread of disease/bacteria/viruses from other stock;
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect all vehicles if they have had contact with livestock from other premises;
- Clean and disinfect buildings and equipment after use by livestock;
- Use a DAERA-approved disinfectant on-farm. FQAS requires that this disinfectant is approved for Foot and Mouth Disease, TB and general orders;
- Also, ensure that suspected disease is accurately diagnosed. Antibiotics will not be the answer for all conditions;
- Comply with the requirements of the NI BVD Eradication Scheme and associated legislation, particularly timely removal of PI calves;
- Follow the advice your vet provides and use any antibiotics/anthelmintics in accordance with their labelling instructions;
- Also, complete the full course prescribed even if the animal improves after a few doses;
- Adhere to the appropriate withdrawal period before slaughter or for the sale of milk;
- Keep medicine records detailing the purchase and usage of medicines administered;
- Consult with your vet before using HP CIA’s (Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics). HP CIAs are also known as ‘last resort antibiotics’ e.g. Marbocyl, Cobactan, Baytril, Excenel;
- Lastly, attend formal training on the responsible use of antimicrobials. This is a requirement for NI Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme.
Make antimicrobials more effective in treating disease
The suggestions outlined above are good farming practice and are requirements for compliance with FQAS.
They can make a difference in reducing the amount of antimicrobials used and, therefore, reducing the opportunity for resistance to develop.
This, in turn, means that these antimicrobials, including antibiotics, are more effective in treating disease.