In this study, we used national-level data to describe trends in on-farm intramammary antimicrobial usage in Ireland from 2003 to 2015. We calculated actual sales of intramammary tubes and the quantity of active substance sold, by year, product type [lactation or dry cow therapy (DCT)], antimicrobial group, World Health Organization antimicrobial classification, and from 2009 to 2015, prescribing route. We also estimated on-farm usage of lactation and dry cow intramammary antimicrobials using defined daily dose (DDDvet) and defined course dose (DCDvet) calculations, and dry cow coverage. Sales of tubes of antimicrobial for DCT have increased, and the estimated national dry cow coverage in 2015 was 1,022 DCDvet per 1,000 cows per year. An increase has also occurred in sales of teat sealant (2015 sales: 66.7 tubes with teat sealant for every 100 tubes with antimicrobial for DCT). In contrast, the number of tubes of antimicrobial sold for lactation use has decreased to 1,398 DDDvet and 466 DCDvet per 1,000 animals per year. Sales in intramammary tubes with at least one critically important antimicrobial (CIA) have either risen since 2007 (DCT) or fallen (lactation therapy). Increases were observed in both the number of dry cow and lactation tubes containing CIA considered of highest priority for human health. Differences between prescribing routes with respect to CIA usage were observed. This study provides detailed insight into on-farm usage of intramammary antimicrobials in Ireland. It demonstrates positive national progress but also highlights areas for review. In particular, blanket dry cow treatment in Ireland should be reconsidered. It is not possible to investigate farm-level variation in antimicrobial usage from national sales data. In several countries, measurement and benchmarking have been critical to progress in reducing antimicrobial usage in farm animal production. Central collation of data on farm-level antimicrobial use is also needed in Ireland to allow objective measurement and benchmarking of on-farm usage. More generally, standardized indicators to quantify antimicrobial usage in farm animals are urgently needed to allow country-level comparisons.
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