AMR is a growing priority for livestock farmers in NI

There is now strong evidence, confirming that Northern Ireland leads the way, in many aspects, where antimicrobial resistance (AMR) measures introduced within the UK are concerned.

Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) industry development manager, Colin Smith, sits on the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) Cattle Antibiotic Guardian Group.

The organisation plays an important role in encouraging the responsible use of veterinary medicines in agriculture.

RUMA is a unique, independent non-profit alliance of farming, animal health industry, food retailing and associated groups, with the aim of promoting a coordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines on farm.

UK antibiotic sales have halved

The RUMA targets taskforce was established in 2017 and the first report in 2020 noted that UK sales of antibiotics to treat farm animals have halved since 2014.

Smith commented:

“Great strides have been made in tackling the AMR challenge here in Northern Ireland over recent years.

“The success of the BVD eradication programme and last year’s introduction of new antibiotic usage standards in the Northern Ireland Beef and lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme, are excellent examples of this ongoing work.

“The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has developed a five-year AMR implementation plan based on the ‘One Health’ approach, encompassing human health, public health, veterinary medicine, animal husbandry and the environment,” he added.

“Whether through disease eradication programmes, knowledge transfer, strategic initiatives or industry led research projects, the Northern Ireland ruminant livestock sectors are actively tackling the important issue of AMR.

NI participation in AMR projects

“Participation in UK wide projects allows Northern Ireland to benchmark its antimicrobial usage with other regions and develop a coordinated response,” Smith continued.

“A flexible but focused long-term strategy is needed to address AMR and it is positive that the industry has many of the tools already in place to address this important issue.”

AMR is now universally regarded by the world’s leading aid agencies as a rising pandemic, one which challenges the effective delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Currently, at least an estimated 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.

If no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

By 2030, AMR could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.

Global effort

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Director-General Dr. Monique Eloit commented:

“The promotion of good animal health practices is essential to contribute to the global effort to tackle AMR.

“The OIE global database on antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals, indicates an encouraging trend towards reduced quantity of antimicrobials used in food producing animals.

“To have a sustainable ‘One Health’ impact, we need to invest and strengthen capacity equally in all sectors, and support the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in the animal health sector, to maintain the efficacy of these important medicines,” she concluded.