Antibiotics will be required on an ongoing basis within Irish agriculture, according to MSD Animal Health Director Fergal Morris.

“But they will only be used as a last resort, in order to ensure that very sick animals can be treated in a welfare-friendly manner.

“However, the effective use of vaccination will ensure that disease prevention and improved animal health standards on farms will significantly improve, to the extent that the need to use antibiotics will be greatly reduced.”

Morris was speaking at today’s ‘Sustainable Irish Food Production in 2025’ veterinary conference.

He confirmed that a number of important animal diseases have been tackled effectively within Irish agriculture over recent years.

The eradication of both Brucellosis and Aujeszky’s disease are tremendous success stories for the cattle and pig sectors respectively.

“And we are heading in the same direction, where Salmonella within the poultry sector is concerned. The eradication of BVD will also be achieved within the very foreseeable future.

“Vaccination for respiratory and diarrhoea-related problems in cattle has helped to significantly reduce the usage of antibiotics within the livestock industries. And this momentum must be maintained.”

Morris said that the eradication of IBR must be made a priority for the Irish cattle sector.

“IBR-free status may soon be made a trading requirement by buyers in a number of our most important beef export markets.”

Animal Health Ireland Chairman Mike Magan also spoke at the event. He said that an IBR eradication campaign would be launched in either 2018 or 2019.

“This will be a vaccination-focussed campaign, in order to dampen down disease levels. Once this has been achieved, heavy pockets of the disease can then be tackled in a bespoke manner.”

MEP Mairead McGuinness addressed the conference. She confirmed that Irish agriculture must address the challenge of reducing antibiotic usage.

But this must be done because it is the right thing to do and not as a knee-jerk reaction to consumer pressure.