While this week marks European Antibiotic Awareness Day [18 November] and the start of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week [18 – 24 November], a research initiative in Northern Ireland entitled ‘STrategic AntiMicrobial use in Dairy, Beef and Lamb Production’ (STAMP) has shown some early promising results within the dairy sector. Initial indications demonstrate considerable potential for it to reduce on farm antibiotic use.
The project is led by AgriSearch in collaboration with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland, LMC and Farmvet Systems Ltd, home of VetIMPRESS. The project aims to develop a user-friendly system to benchmark antibiotic usage and provide decision support tools to help producers on commercial farms in Northern Ireland improve animal health. The project is co-funded through DAERA’s Research Challenge Fund.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week run by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aims to increase awareness around antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which is a matter of global concern across the human health, animal health and agricultural sectors. Antimicrobials have made a major contribution to the health and welfare of cattle with farmers and vets having joint responsibility to ensure the correct and appropriate use. There has been a sustained and collaborative effort across the livestock industry to raise awareness of antibiotic use, with some retailers and stakeholders in the food supply chain requiring regular reporting of usage data.
A key challenge faced by the livestock industry is gathering accurate information on the purchase and use of antibiotics on beef and dairy farms. STAMP has developed a web-based platform that captures and monitors antibiotic prescription use at farm level. The platform provides an analysis system helping farmers understand their antibiotic use and discuss with their vet how responsible use could be improved through management changes. This could help farmers meet the requirements of livestock assurance schemes, retailers and consumers and demonstrate that Northern Irish produce is high quality, sustainable and safe.
Jason Rankin, General Manager at AgriSearch and project lead, said: “The STAMP benchmarking application offers farmers and their veterinary surgeons a quick and easy way to monitor antimicrobial use over time with minimal data input. It is part of a suite of activities in the STAMP project that will help farmers to improve animal health and reduce the use of antimicrobials.”
The STAMP project fits within the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency wider five-year action plan entitled ‘Changing the Culture 2019-2024 - One Health’ which compliments the UK action plan to fight antimicrobial resistance and addresses issues which are more specific to Northern Ireland.
Dr Sam Strain, CEO of Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland, added: “Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most pressing challenges facing human and animal health. Within the ruminant sector there is an urgent need to reduce the disease drivers for their use and, when antimicrobials are needed, to use them better. The STAMP online tool provides farmers and their vets with key information that will allow them to make strategic decisions on animal health and how to optimise the use of antimicrobials when they are needed.”
George Brownlee, CEO of Farmvet Systems, explained: “The important area of antimicrobials in livestock production is increasingly coming under the spotlight. The STAMP platform will enable vets to maintain their crucial role as gatekeepers of antibiotic use in the livestock industry and provide an effective means for vets and producers to work together to effectively monitor AMU. We are pleased to take our expertise in this area and apply it to the development of this important platform, which will lead to more responsible use of antimicrobials on farms in Northern Ireland for the long-term benefit of farmers, their animals and the general public."
Further information on the STAMP project can be found at https://www.agrisearch.org/dairy/ongoing-dairy/animal-health-and-welfare-dairy/604-stamp-strategic-use-of-antimicrobials-in-dairy-beef-and-lamb-production-rcf-05-2017.