Prevention and control are undoubtedly better than cure in the context of animal disease when we consider the huge economic damage caused by notifiable production diseases, according to Martin Cormican, Professor of Bacteriology, NUI Galway.

Speaking at the Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland (CAVI) conference in Cork this week he said that disease prevention also has a major bearing on sustainability, in terms of reducing the quantity and doses of antibiotics and medicines which we need to use to treat sick animals.

“From a consumer perspective, sick animals which are prescribed with antibiotics are withdrawn from the food chain for an extended period around treatment.”

Professor Cormican highlighted that the issue of antimicrobial resistance is a shared challenge for veterinary and medical practice. “We all depend on the same limited number of classes of antimicrobial agents,” said Professor Cormican. “The inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents is supported by multiple factors including habit, diagnostic uncertainty, perceived and actual expectations of patients or farmers, commercial pressures and fears in relation to reputational damage, allegations of malpractice or litigation.”

Professor Cormican called for greater collaboration between stakeholders in both the medical and veterinary sectors to find practical ways to support and incentivise the prudent use of antimicrobial agents when they are necessary and to reduce the need for them by more effective action to prevent infection.

Veterinary Ireland has produced a Submission on Sustainable Animal Health as part of the Rural Development consultation process.

Some 200 livestock vets are attending the annual conference of the Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland in Cork, where sessions include scientific and practical presentations on subjects ranging from mastitis, parasitology and infectious diseases; to poisons, nutrition, ultrasound and surgery in beef and dairy cattle. The conference also includes practical workshops with Irish organisations such as ICBF and AHI.