“Most farmers don’t want to use antibiotics,” says Listowel vet Robert Flahive. He was speaking at a webinar organised by Dutch-based animal health company AHV.

AHV manufactures and sell a range of animal health products that don’t contain antibiotics. Instead, it claims to work on improving the immune system of the cow to fight the infection.

Flahive outlined the new veterinary regulations coming into place in Ireland next year. These new rules forbid the use of blanket dry cow therapy and only permit the use of antibiotics where it is absolutely necessary.

He says vets will have to submit all prescriptions to a central database and he expects that herds will be ranked on antibiotic use per livestock unit.

“Herds that are using more than twice the average are likely to get audited as to why this is happening. That’s what has happened in other countries. Also, vets that prescribe more are also likely to be audited,” Flahive said.

Flahive, who is a vet at Castleview Veterinary services in Listowel, Co Kerry, says he no longer prescribes antibiotics to treat cases of mastitis in young cows with new infections.

Instead, he uses non-antibiotic treatments, such as AHV products, and says he finds them as effective as antibiotics when they are not used in chronic cases. But, he says that conventional antibiotics are not effective in chronic cases either.

Professor Dr Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Emeritus professor at Utrecht University, said there is a global move towards reducing antibiotic usage in farming and that many other European countries have successfully implemented measures to reduce antibiotic usage.