In just over a week’s time, new veterinary medicines and veterinary feed regulations will be introduced across Europe under the EU Regulation on Veterinary Medicinal Products 2019/6.

The regulation, which comes into force on January 28, sets out new rules for the sale, manufacture, import, export, supply, distribution, advertising, control and use of veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed.

On a practical level for all farmers, however, the new rules will see an end to the prophylactic use of antibiotics to prevent illness and keep animals healthy; and will ensure that better animal husbandry, better hygiene and better management practices take the place of those antibiotics.

As we enter the final week before the changes come into play, Agriland provides an update what exactly those changes entail.


According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), there will be changes to prescriptions, and the time limit for valid prescriptions for antimicrobials, including antibiotics and medicated feed.

For the dairy sector, in particular, one of the main changes from January 28, onwards, involves the administering of antibiotic dry-cow tubes for the treatment, and pre-emptive prevention, of udder infection and mastitis.

These will no longer be permitted to be administered to all cows – blanket therapy – in a preventative way; only those cows that have infection, and where that infection has been identified, will be given this treatment – selective therapy.

Under the new regulations, a prescription will be required, it will be valid for five days from date of issue and must be filled within this timeframe.

But the animal, or animals, can be treated for as long as is specified by the vet on the prescription.

However, the requirement of a prescription for anti-parasitics has been postponed to June 1, 2022 and this will be dealt with at a later date.

The DAFM advises that existing prescriptions that you may have for specific antimicrobials like intramammary tubes for cows will no longer be valid from February 2, 2022.

For all other veterinary medicines that are not antimicrobials, a prescription is valid for a maximum of 12 months.

Image source: DAFM

HP-CIAs and mastitis

As referred to in the image above, from January 28, certain dry-tubes will no longer be routinely used due to the presence of ‘highest priority critically important antibiotics’ (HP-CIA).

In 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified all antibiotics into three categories based on their human-health relevance: Important; highly important; and critically important. The HP-CIAs are a subset of the critically important ones.

According to Animal Health Ireland (AHI), although the overall use of HP-CIAs in the treatment of mastitis has been limited, “there was evidence of an increase from 2003 to 2015 in the number of intra-mammary tubes used (both in lactation and at drying off), that contain at least one HP-CIA”.

In 2018, 8% of antibiotic dry-cow tubes used contained a HP-CIA, AHI said.

Exceptional cases

There are always some exceptions to some rules and, according to the DAFM, antimicrobials will be allowed for prophylaxis in ‘exceptional cases’ for administration to an individual animal or restricted number of animals when the risk of infection is very high and consequences are likely to be severe.

In the event of an antibiotic being used in this scenario, it will be limited – in quantity and duration – and based solely on the animal’s, or animals’ needs.

A prescription will be required in this scenario.

A prescription will also required where where antimicrobials for metaphylactic treatment are required – in exceptional cases, and only after diagnosis of infection.

This applies only when risk of the spread of infection is high and no other alternatives are available.

Medicines on the farm – what’s the deal?

According to the DAFM, there can be a small quantity of medicines on a farm that are essential to protect animal health and welfare.

However, prescription-only medicines (POM) can only be present if a vet deems them necessary, the DAFM says, adding that it is for your vet to justify the veterinary medicines they have prescribed for your animals.

In the case of prescription-only antimicrobial medicine, a vet can only prescribe a small quantity of antimicrobials to be kept on farm where there may be an essential need for the administration to an individual animal or restricted number of animals when the risk for infection, or an infectious disease is very high or its consequences are likely to be severe.

It is important to discuss such scenarios with your vet for a full understanding of what is permissible.

Prescription – paper or digital?

The DAFM will be introducing a new national veterinary prescription system (NVPS) in 2022 to facilitate the recording of prescriptions in a digital format.

This was to be implemented on January 28, but has been postponed and will, instead, come in on a phased basis, allowing for the continuation of paper scripts for a limited period.

This period will, according to the DAFM, allow all stakeholders to prepare and familiarise themselves with the new digital system.

It is expected that the NVPS will be operational in June 2022.

Stay tuned to Agriland over the coming week as we cover the impact of the new veterinary medicines rules in greater detail.