AMR: The need to act NOW
(Article adapted from the Animal Health Ireland CellCheck newsletter)
Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is a term used to describe a situation where a medicine that used to work, no longer works. The rise of AMR is seen as a global public health threat.
The most common form of AMR is resistance by bacteria to antibiotics. Bacteria have been around for a long time and as such they have developed efficient methods of survival. Antibiotics were first discovered in 1928 however bacteria are now developing the ability, when exposed to antibiotics, to become resistant to their effects.
AMR is a natural phenomenon and it cannot be prevented. However, the pace at which it is developing has increased rapidly in recent years because too many antibiotics are being used in both the human health and animal health sectors, not just here in Ireland, but at global level.
How can I play my part?
Medical practitioners alone cannot fix this problem; farmers alone cannot fix this problem; the public alone cannot fix this problem. We all need to work together if we are to avert this crisis. For those involved with animals, this means doing everything we can to prevent the outbreaks of bacterial infections in our stock. It means using vaccination to prevent outbreaks of viral infections, as viral infections suppress immunity and increase susceptability to bacterial infections. It means regularly cleaning and disinfecting any equipment that comes in contact with animals. It means isolating sick animals, and when we or our animals are sick, sticking to the 5 R’s:
- Right Advice - Get the right advice
- Right Animal - Only give an antibiotic to an animal for which it has not been prescribed.
- Right Antibiotic - Understand that the right antibiotic to use is the simplest, most narrow spectrum antibiotic that will work for the particular infection.
- Right Dose - Adhere to the right dose
- Right Duration – Always complete the duration of treatment recorded on the prescription or medicine label.
One area specific to dairy farming that is likely to come under pressure from AMR in the near future is the blanket use of dry cow tubes at the end of the lactation. This traditionally has involved treating all quarters of all cows in the herd with a dry cow tube regardless of the mastitis status of each cow. An alternative practice to blanket dry cow treatments, known as selective dry cow therapy is one possible method recommended to reduce AMR on farm. In many herds, there may be a certain proportion of cows that do not require anitbiotic dry cow tubes at drying off. These are cows that have a consistently low SCC history and have a good health status which are favourable criteria when considering selective dry cow therapy.
When carrying out selective dry cow therapy, accurate animal selction is critical. It is recommended to have milk records of each cow during their lactation with any clinical mastitis cases noted during the season. Milk recording will identify problem cows suitable for selective dry cow therapy as well as cows that will need an antibiotic treatment. In most selective dry cow therapy procedures, cows that are not treated with a dry cow tube should receive a teat sealer at drying off. This will help seal the teat end and prevent bacteria getting in during the dry period. Another area that is essiential for selective dry cow therapy is hygiene at dry-off. Teats need to be disinfected thoroughly in order to avoid new infection. Sensitivity analysis will assist in determining the correct dry cow tube to use. Milk samples from cows that have high cell count or clinical cases of mastitis in the herd should be cultured to identify the bacteria that is causing the problem. Results from sensitivity analysis will highlight the right tube to use, specific to your own farm. During the lactation, mastitis and antibiotic tube usage could also be reduced by milking known high scc cows last or by using a cluster dip to disinfectant clusters between cows to avoid cross contamination during milking.
If we do not act now, the choice may very well be taken out of our hands, whether that is by nature herself, or by those who will be forced to act to protect all our futures.
There will be more information on AMR and dry cow management at the CellCheck farm walk in Donal O’Connor’s farm on Tuesday 6th of November at 10:30am
Nitrates Derogation – Are you complying with the new rules?
Following the launch of the fourth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) in December 2017, a number of new and existing rules are being enforced over the next three years as part of the Nitrates Derogation. As we near the end of the year and approach the housing period, now is the time to ensure that you are compliant.
Organic Manure Storage – Having adequate storage has always been a requirement. From 2018, the DAFM will enforce this rule. If you have applied for a Nitrates Derogation in 2018, you must have the adequate storage for the winter period 2018/2019 (16 Weeks). If you do not have adequate storage for that period, your 2018 Nitrates Derogation will be withdrawn, and you will not be allowed to apply for one in 2019. Some of the possible penalties as a result of being automatically withdrawn due to noncompliance are:
- Penalised for being stocked > 170 KG N
- Penalised for overuse of fertiliser
- Penalised for not having adequate storage
What to do?
Check with your advisor that you have adequate storage. If you don’t have adequate storage you may need to look at the options below.
- Destock – Sell/cull any surplus stock. One livestock unit requires 0.33m3 / 73gallons of storage per week. That means you need roughly 1200 gallons per animal for 16 weeks (without counting rainfall). A good option if you are just marginally short and are planning to put a tank in place next year.
- Put in a tank – Farms that are severely short will have to get the storage in place.
- Rent a tank – If you can rent a tank this may be an option. Short and long term rentals are available, but you must have a legal agreement.
- Straw Bedding – Ensure that all available straw bedding is included and talk to your advisor about this.
Note: Exporting slurry will not rectify a storage issue. This will only reduce your nitrogen per hectare per year (NPH) figure. If you are close to the 170 NPH, you could potentially export slurry to stay out of derogation. This would allow more time to put storage in place for next year.
Soil Sampling – The maximum area for a soil sample has been reduced to 5 ha with an average of 4 ha across the farm and soil samples are valid for 4 years. Soil samples taken from the 1st of January 2018 onwards must not exceed 5 ha. If you are planning to soil sample in the next few months, make sure they are taken adequately.
As part of the 4th NAP, a new Phosphorus (P) - Build Up Programme has been introduced. This allows farmers with index 1 and 2 soils to apply for an additional allowance of chemical P. To qualify for the additional build up, new soil samples must be taken (regardless if they were taken last year) to include an organic matter soil sample. Applicants must also attend a P-Build Up course (KT Event) before year end of the year of application.
Slurry Spreading – At least 50% of all slurry must be spread before the 15th of June. After that date, the remaining slurry spread must spread using low emission slurry spreading equipment. Note: All slurry can be spread with a splash plate before the 15th of June.
Run Off – Run off from roadways must not run into drains or watercourses. Roadways need to be cambered away from water courses so that the soiled water from roads is running onto fields and nutrients can be used up by the soil. Herdowners have until January 1st, 2021 to put these measures in place but should start to make the changes necessary sooner rather than later as work may need to be carried out to slope road ways.
Water Courses – Herdowners have until January 1st, 2021 to fence off all water courses and close drinking points from cattle. The fence must be 1.5m (5ft) back from the top of the bank. Permanent posts and electric wire will suffice.
Drinking troughs must also be 20m away from a water course by this date.