Medicine sales see downturn
FARMERS are using less drugs to treat their stock in the face of falling farm incomes, according to 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."
He warned that farmers were being forced to take chances with animal health; the market for pig wormers, for example had dropped in value by 32.4% from a 1998 figure which was itself low.
"Farmers are taking every opportunity to avoid expense," said Mr Cook, describing it as a "worrying indication".
Referring to one of the most controversial products – antibiotics – he said sales had fallen dramatically, partly because of a drop in animal numbers and producers focusing on animal husbandry to help reduce the need.
Herefordshire vet and former president of the British Veterinary Association Francis Anthony said that on-farm work was right down, but 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 RSPCAs 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, chairman of the NFUs animal health and welfare committee, said although farmers were giving more thought to calling out the vet, animal welfare was not being compromised. *