12 May 2000

Welfare hit by falling income, reckons FFA

GRASSROOTS farmer protest group, Farmers for Action, is to hold meetings with the RSPCA to voice its concerns that animal welfare is being compromised by falling farm incomes.

The move follows publication of government figures that show a sharp fall in antibiotic use on farms. The figures show that sales of antimicrobials rose steadily between 1993 and 1996, when farm animals accounted for the use of 629t of active ingredient. But figures collected by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate show that by 1998 antibiotic use had dropped by 27% to 522t. The decline was achieved despite an increase in the total liveweight of livestock slaughtered during the period.

It is the first time such information has been made readily available, a move that is part of a government strategy to improve public knowledge about farming use of antibiotics.

The emergence of antibiotic resistance in human medicines has led to increasing concerns about the use of the products in animal production systems.

The overall aim of the government is to reduce the veterinary use of antimicrobial products, to assist in combating the resistance of bacteria to human medicines.

But the FFA is worried that animal welfare could suffer if producers are forced by low prices to cut medicine costs and concerned that some on-farm infection will not be treated, jeopardising public health.

"Those who are forcing down the price of milk unnecessarily are gambling with the health of our cows and possibly with the nations health as well," said FFA spokesman Kelvin Linsley. &#42