Department ‘rushing to push for vet medicine prescriptions’

A plan to introduce compulsory prescriptions for “routine” dosing products for livestock is becoming an increasingly controversial issue.

According to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), prescriptions for these products would be “over the top”, and it called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to “take a pragmatic approach”.

“We need a more sensible approach… [The EU regulation] still provides for an exemption from prescription control, although the grounds have tightened. ICSA believes that the department has been quick to rush into pushing for prescription-only status for anti-parasitic doses,” said Hugh Farrell, the association’s animal health and welfare chairperson.

There is no agreement among stakeholders that this should be the outcome. Instead, there is deep concern that this will lead to an erosion of competition whereas farmers want to be free to choose between vets, pharmacies and licenced merchants.

Farrell called on the Department of Agriculture to change its approach and to work on putting a “derogation” in place to continue allowing licenced merchants to provide anti-parasitic medicine without the need for prescription, arguing that “it can be done”.

He went on to say that it was “not sensible” to have a different regime here compared to the one in place in Northern Ireland, where a derogation-like system exists.

“Apart from the risk of cross border purchasing, the reality is that a tighter regime in the republic will make our farmers less competitive. We have no doubt that the restrictive regime proposals will add cost through reduced competition and excess bureaucracy,” Farrell added.

Having vets tied up doing prescriptions and potentially having to do unnecessary wasteful farm visits will exacerbate the situation, where they are not immediately available for an emergency call-out.

Noting that department officials had pointed to anthelmintic resistance as a reason for the change to regulations, the ICSA animal health and welfare chairperson claimed that this was “showing a complete lack of respect for the competence of farmers who are at the front line in delivering excellent care for their stock”.

“Farmers are well aware of the problem of anthelmintic resistance. That’s why many suckler farmers have chosen to carry out dung sampling under the BEEP-S [Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot – Sucklers] scheme. Farmers will use scientific measurement to minimise the use of anthelmintics.

“But it would be misleading to think that there is widespread scope to eliminate or even substantially reduce the need for wormers and flukicides. The wet climate is ideal for fluke and many farmers already know the extent of the fluke threat from meat factory examinations of livers,” Farrell highlighted.