The Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA) has welcomed the publication of a new Code of Good Practice on the Responsible Prescribing and Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals as ‘a significant development in protecting the effectiveness of antibiotics in both human and animal healthcare’.
The Code of Good Practice, developed by IFA, ICMSA and Veterinary Ireland with the support of stakeholders in the agri-food sector, including APHA, sets out clear guidelines for responsible use and prescribing of antibiotics in farm animals. The new Code is an important part of the response from agri-food stakeholders to the global challenge of increasing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is limiting the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments of disease in animals and humans.
The new Code is based on the guiding principal in the use of antibiotics: ‘use as little as possible, and as much as necessary’. The Code stresses that medicines must not be used as a substitute for good farm management including optimum ventilation, appropriate stocking densities, good nutrition, hygiene, vaccination against disease and parasite control.
A survey of farmers conducted by the IFA and APHA reveals high levels of awareness of AMR among farmers and increasing use of an overall herd health approach to managing animal health on farms. The survey revealed that 92 per cent of farmers surveyed see an immediate need for greater awareness of AMR and 76 per cent have a herd health management plan in place.
The new Code of Good Practice sets out key questions that farmers and their vets should answer when using antibiotics. These are based on the principle of the ‘Six Rights’ that should apply before prescribing and using antibiotics in farm animals. These are:
• Right veterinary diagnosis
• Right animal
• Right antibiotic
• Right dose
• Right duration
• Right disposal
Critically Important Antibiotics (‘CIAs’)
The Code also highlights Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs), which are considered critically important in the treatment of disease in humans as they are the antibiotics of last resort to treat disease when other antibiotics have failed. The Code states that High Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HPCIAs) should not be used as a first line of treatment in animals and they should only be used following veterinary advice, when there are no effective alternative antibiotics available.
The Code contains advice on best practice in managing the storage and disposal of antibiotics, withdrawal periods and record keeping related to antibiotic prescription and use in treating disease in farm animal.
Welcoming the new Code of Good Farm Practice, Pat Farrell, chairman of IFA’s Animal Health Committee said: “A recent survey of farmers conducted by APHA/IFA has demonstrated that farmers are being pro-active in adopting good herd management practices to reduce the use of antibiotics. Significant investments are being made by farmers in herd health plans and vaccination programmes to achieve this. This new Code of Practice provides further welcome guidance to farmers and vets in this critical area.”
Commenting, Lorcan McCabe of the ICMSA, said: “Managing herd health is critical to all farmers. This new Code provides welcome guidance on the proper and effective use of antibiotics which has gained further importance with increasing AMR. Farmers and their vets need to continually review and ask themselves the questions set out in the Code, particularly around the ‘Six Rights’.”
Conor Geraghty of Veterinary Ireland said: “The new Code of Good Practice on the correct use of antibiotics should broaden understanding and acceptance of the importance of effective management of herd health. The new Code emphasises how important the careful use of antibiotics is, not just for animal health, but for human health also.”
APHA CEO John Keogh said the publication of the new Code and Guidelines is an important development in raising awareness on the correct use of antibiotics in farming. He said: “Correct prescribing and use of antibiotics is hugely important in maintaining their effectiveness in treating disease in both animals and humans. Incorrect or overuse lessens overall effectiveness which in time will significantly reduce the range of treatment options available to treat disease. It is clear that farmers and the other stakeholders in the agri-food sector understand the challenge of increasing AMR and are taking steps to counteract it, including adopting whole herd management approaches. This Code provides further guidance on where and how antibiotics should be used to treat disease.”