20 April 2000
Medicine sales plummet by 30%

By FWi staff

FARMERS are using fewer drugs to treat their stock in the face of falling farm incomes, according to the latest figures from manufacturers.

For the first time ever, animal medicine sales fell in the UK on the back of a downturn in farm animal sales, the National Office of Animal Health has reported.

NOAH director, Roger Cook said: “Farm animal sales have taken a downturn. This reflects the desperate state of UK livestock farming during the last year.”

Farmers were being forced to take chances with animal health, he added. The market for pig wormers, for example, has dropped in value by 32.4% since 1998.

“Farmers are taking every opportunity to avoid expense,” said Mr Cook, describing it as a “worrying indication”.

Sales of antibiotics have fallen dramatically, partly because of a drop in animal numbers and producers focusing on husbandry to help reduce their use.

Herefordshire vet and former president of the British Veterinary Association Francis Anthony said that it was difficult to say if there were welfare problems.

“We are not getting out on to farms to identify if there is a problem,” he said.

Julia Wrathell, deputy head of the RSPCA farm animal department, said the organisation was not aware of a rise in welfare problems.

“We have not seen an increase in suffering. But maybe this is something that wont be seen immediately. The effects may be in the longer term.”

Brian Jennings of the NFU said that farmers were giving more thought to calling out the vet but welfare was not being compromised.