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Tighter controls on the use of veterinary medicines will not completely limit flexibility in animal treatment, Veterinary Ireland has insisted.
However, the new regulations will lead to more prudent use of antibiotics on farms, said Conor Geraghty, President of Veterinary Ireland.
The introduction of a new EU-wide regulatory system from early 2022 is an attempt to combat the serious threat posed by antibiotic resistance and to standardize the use of veterinary medicines across the EU.
The move has raised concerns among ranchers and fears that the amended regulations will inevitably drive up veterinary costs.
Mr Geraghty said these concerns were largely exaggerated.
“Drugs are only prescribed for current disease outbreaks,” he said.
“For example, if a farmer has a problem with mastitis in his herd, the veterinarian can prescribe a prescription to treat any number of cows.
“The difference is that the farmer now has to purchase the tubes within five days of the prescription being given. In the past, he could have kept the recipe for up to 12 months. “
The use of antibiotics as a preventive measure is being phased out, Geraghty said. This has implications for the use of dry cow cane on dairy farms.
He also warned that some antibiotics in veterinary medicine could be banned or tightly controlled.
The Ministry of Agriculture has not yet established the length of time that farmers can keep unused medicines.
Mr Geraghty stressed that veterinarians will work with farmers to ensure the animals receive the treatment they need
The agricultural organizations have warned that the keeping and use of antibiotics on farms will be radically changed by the new regulations.
ICMSA President Pat McCormack urged Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue to intervene immediately and ensure a workable solution.
He said farmers’ concerns about the cost, paperwork and whether they can properly care for their animals were growing.
In the meantime, veterinary advice is now needed if anthelmintic cans and drenches are used. These also require a prescription for purchase.
Niamh Muldoon, CEO of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that the requirement for an anti-parasitic drug prescription is a very significant change.
Between 2007 and this year Ireland had a derogation from an EU directive requiring farmers to seek veterinary advice when using anthelmintic cans and drenches. However, this exemption is no longer available.