THE Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, has launched the ‘Code of Good Practice regarding the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Horses’.

The code, which is a resource for horse owners and keepers, was produced by a multidisciplinary team of equine experts, highlights the importance of the responsible use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, in order to safeguard their efficacy, and includes practical advice to support this.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is resistance of a microorganism to a drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections. Resistant microorganisms (including bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa) are able to withstand attack by antimicrobial drugs, such as antibacterial drugs, antifungals, antivirals, and antimalarials, so that standard treatments become ineffective and infections persist, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance means that there are less treatment options available, making the most common infections more difficult to treat. If infections cannot be treated the risk of diseases spreading, severe illness and death increases.

Antimicrobial resistance happens naturally over time. However, the rate of antimicrobial resistance is increasing because a huge amount of antimicrobials are being used across the world in humans, animals and the environment. Antimicrobial resistance is being made worse by overusing antimicrobial medicines and by not using antimicrobial medicines correctly.

The result of this is that common infections are becoming more difficult to treat and so-called ‘superbugs’ are developing. This is a problem because many antimicrobial medicines do not work to treat ‘superbugs’. Antimicrobial medicines should only be used when they are needed to fight serious infections.

Global threat

“AMR is a global threat, a threat to our health, our animal’s health, our shared environment and ultimately our agri-industry,” Minister McConalogue said.

“Not only do we need to ensure the responsible use of antimicrobials, all animal owners need to do what they can to promote their animal’s health and reduce the risk of disease. Disease prevention through enhanced biosecurity and optimal animal health management are key measures to reduce the need to use antimicrobials, such as antibiotics. This Code clearly outlines these measures for our horse owners.

“I wish to sincerely thank our equine health stakeholders, specifically veterinary practitioners and researchers for their enthusiasm, commitment, time and expertise, all generously given, to produce this document. AMR is a complex, global issue - it is only by working together, using a One Health approach, that we can successfully achieve our objectives in tackling AMR.”


Some of the infection prevention advice for owners in the code include:

  • 1: Implement a yard vaccination and deworming programme
  • 2: Be conscious of air quality to avoid infectious respiratory disease
  • 3: Provide plenty of clean, fresh water and check the water source often for contamination
  • 4: Check the feed sources regularly for mould and contamination by birds and rodents that carry diseases
  • 5: Maintain appropriate stocking density to reduce stress levels and limit the ability of disease to spread
  • 6: Manage young stock separately to breeding stock, and separate these from competition/other stock
  • 7: Have a rigorous cleaning and disinfection plan for stabling, equipment, transport vehicles and high traffic areas
  • 8: Closely observe and quarantine all new arrivals and those returning to the yard
  • The code also includes the ‘Six Rs’ of responsible use of antimicrobials, which are: Right Diagnosis, Right Horse, Right Veterinary Medicine, Right Dosage, Right Duration, Right Storage and Disposal.

    Further information on AMR is available via