Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Teagasc Annual Report 2018: Discussion

Dr. Frank O'Mara:

Let me return to a couple of issues raised by Deputy Stanley, including slurry, disease and antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is bringing this debate very much to the fore. Ireland has a unified strategy on that. The Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are implementing a "one health" strategy owing to the linkages between what happens on farms and what happens with humans and food. We had a very good conference on the agriculture side about two weeks ago in Tullamore. People were talking about the issue of antibiotics used in animals getting into slurry and water and then into the food chain.

It is a relatively recent area of research for us to get into. At this stage, because of the integrated nature of it, we would have researchers from our food safety side, our soil researchers and our animal researchers working together on the issue. The use of antibiotics in Irish agriculture is relatively small. We do not have a very large pig sector where most of the antibiotic usage is concentrated.

On the ruminant side, the issue of greatest concern is the blanket use of antibiotics at drying off - dry cow therapy. That issue is being addressed through a programme involving Teagasc and Animal Health Ireland on selective dry cow therapy. It is still in pilot stage, but there are encouraging results. There is an encouraging reaction from farmers to the use of selective dry cow therapy rather than blanket dry cow therapy. I think we will see progress on that issue, but many issues remain to be teased out.