Organisations Involved: AgriSearch, AFBI, AHWNI, LMC, Farm Vet Systems (VetImpress)

Project Code: RCF-05-17

Funding: DAERA Research Challenge Fund (50%)


Antimicrobials have made a major contribution to the health and welfare of cattle. They are vital medicines for the treatment and control of bacterial infections in cattle. All farmers have a responsibility for the health and welfare of the animals on their farm. This is a joint responsibility with their veterinary surgeon to ensure the correct and appropriate use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics. Farmers and stock-keepers can play a major role in ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials on farms. The beef, sheep and dairy sectors in Northern Ireland recognise the need to tackle AMR and this is being done through a range of initiatives. The key challenge however is effectively and efficiently gathering accurate information on the purchase and use of antibiotics on beef and dairy farms. 


The overall objective of the project is to develop, evaluate and implement a veterinary medicine recording and benchmarking system at farm and individual animal level integrated with quality assurance.  Risk assessments related to two areas where antibiotic use is common will be developed, complete with step through decision support tools suitable for both farmer and veterinary practitioner with the impact of implementation quantified.   

The outcome of the project will be a ready to implement system, with quantifiable financial and animal health benefits that would enable NI agriculture to respond to concerns over antibiotics use in food producing animals. 

  1. Develop prototype system to capture and monitor antibiotic use at farm level for potential integration into livestock assurance schemes
  2. Design, after reviewing international practices and stakeholder discussion, a practical veterinary medicine benchmarking system for dairy, beef and sheep farmers.
  3. Deploy, test and refine benchmarking system with several commercial farms and veterinary practices.
  4. Design and test potential smart systems to capture antibiotic and vaccine use at an animal level with minimal producer input
  5. Develop, implement and review the impact of risk assessments and decision support tools related to dry cow therapy and calf rearing on pilot livestock farms. Quantify the impact in terms of antibiotic use, animal health and financial returns.
  6. Develop a user-friendly decision support/risk assessment package to target the two specific case study areas that could be rolled out within the supply chain

Project outputs:

  1. Ready to implement farm and individual animal system to record and monitor antibiotic and vaccine use of commercial farms across NI. Provides strong platform upon which to base AMR policy decisions. Completely automated and more manual options developing catering for the range of producers.
  2. Based on the pilot farms an initial understanding of anti-microbial and vaccine use of commercial farms. Understanding of systems and strategies in place globally to monitor and reduce antibiotic use in farmed livestock.
  3. Quantification of the financial and animal health costs associated with selective dry cow therapy and calf rearing and the impact of a strategic risk-based approach to designing heath protocols
  4. Development of simple to use producer decision support tools based on intuitive risk assessments and use of farm management, disease status, biosecurity, hygiene and drug use information. Although modelled on dry cows and calves this will directly integrate with AHWNI future disease control/reduction strategies.

Click here to read more about recent project results.

To read more about the Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT) project, click here.

To read the results from AFBI's survey on SDCT use on farms in Northern Ireland, click here.