LIVESTOCK farmers are being reminded to be responsible when they use antibiotics in order to prevent a build up of resistance to the drugs.
As the EU marked the annual European Antibiotic Awareness day yesterday, the NFU highlighted the issue and urged farmers to think about how they are using the drugs.
The rules state that all antibiotics for use in food-producing animals must be prescribed by a vet to animals under his or her care following a clinical assessment, and they must be supplied by a vet or pharmacist in accordance with the prescription.
NFU animal health and welfare adviser Catherine McLaughlin said: “The NFU and its farmer members recognise the threat to human and animal health of antibiotic resistance and we take the issue extremely seriously.
“The NFU is an active member of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) which promotes the responsible use of antibiotics. We believe that antibiotics should be used as little as possible, but as much as necessary to protect the health and welfare of animals.
“Antibiotic Awareness day provides an ideal opportunity for the NFU to remind livestock keepers using antibiotics to ensure they are doing so responsibly, which means only using antibiotics prescribed by your vet (and supplied by the vet or from an approved source under a veterinary prescription), and using the antibiotic in accordance with the instructions on the label.
“It is vitally important to give the full dose for the whole treatment period to avoid increasing the risk of resistance, and not using antibiotics as a substitute for good farm management.
“Following these simple steps on-farm will help ensure that animals remain fit and healthy and all medical issues are dealt with in the appropriate manner.”
Antibiotic resistance can occur when strains of bacteria can mutate over time and become resistant to a specific antibiotic.
Treatment with an antibiotic can also destroy many of the harmless strains of bacteria that live in and on the body, allowing resistant bacteria to mutate and take their place.
In addition, some bacteria also possess the ability to pass on their resistance to other unrelated species of bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance genes have been found in animal zoonotics, so there is also a risk that humans could be infected by resistant zoonotic pathogens, which could in turn be transferred through the food chain or the environment.