Farmers and vets working in the dairy, pig, beef and sheep sectors on the island of Ireland are being asked to complete a survey to provide their views on how antibiotics are used in agriculture.
As part of OneHealth efforts to address the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance, legislative and policy changes are being introduced at European and national level centred on agricultural antibiotic use. The European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy has set a 2030 target of reducing sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 50%, while the EU will introduce new regulations in 2022 on veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed. In advance of such changes, this survey aims to understand the current behaviours and views of farmers and vets with respect to antibiotic use and inform recommendations to support any necessary changes to current antibiotic practices at farm level.
Dr Claire McKernan, a research fellow from Queen’s University Belfast, leading the survey said: “It is important that the views of farmers and vets are heard and understood. New animal health legislation is set to be introduced in 2022 as part of the Farm to Fork strategy which will require a shift in how antibiotics are used in some areas of agriculture. Yet this shift can only be achieved through understanding farmers’ and vets’ needs and helping them to address any necessary changes at farm level. We want to hear from those across different sectors – so we are looking for dairy, beef, pig and sheep farmers to respond. We want farmers and vets from all walks of life and parts of the island to take part. All responses will be confidential and greatly appreciated.”
Teagasc Research Officer and Principle Investigator of the safefood project, Dr Áine Regan reinforced the need to capture the opinions of farmers and vets in the area of antibiotic use in advance of policy-driven changes. “It is vital that we assess the preparedness of farmers and vets to navigate the incoming regulations and identify resources that will support them through this major transition. Top-down policy changes work best when supported by bottom-up initiatives. In the safefood project, we are developing supports that will help farmers, farm advisors and vets to work together in a collaborative way to improve animal health on farms and reduce the need for antibiotic use. The survey being led by QUB is an opportunity to hear from farmers and vets on the ground about their experiences of using antibiotics and the challenges they face in making changes to farm practices. With a better understanding of these lived experiences, we will be able to develop targeted supports which are practical, relevant and useful”.
The study forms part of a larger cross-border project led by Teagasc and funded by safefood. This safefood project, involves the collaboration of psychologists, veterinarians, and animal health scientists from, QUB, UCD and Teagasc to understand behaviours and attitudes around antibiotic use and explore how to support farmers and vets make positive changes to ensure responsible antibiotic usage in agriculture.