NI livestock industry ‘must play its part’ in antibiotic reduction

It is essential that the local Northern Irish livestock industry plays a role in meeting the overall UK targets on reducing antibiotic usage, according to Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson, Robin Swann MLA.

Commenting on the issue, Swann said: “Antimicrobials are an essential tool for everyday farming in order to treat infectious and zoonotic diseases such as bacterial pneumonia and mastitis, but just as like in people, excessive use can render them ineffective.

“Last week I attended the annual British Veterinary Association (BVA) event at Stormont and their warning of a global threat of antimicrobial resistance was stark.

Antimicrobial resistance – when the micro-organisms that cause infection survive exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them or stop their growth – not only will make responding to infections in cattle more difficult, but it also poses a major threat to modern human medicine.

“UK farmers were now among the lowest users of antibiotics for farm animals in Europe. According to recent Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) figures the sale of antibiotics have dropped by around 40% in the four years to 2017.

The MLA said he is pleased to hear the BVA provide an update of its collaborative work with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) on reducing the local use of antibiotics in the local cattle herd.

“But it’s not just up to vets – I really believe as a whole the local agricultural industry has an important role to play in the appropriate use of medications.

“From talking to vets I’m aware that it’s already an issue on the radar of many,” Swann said.