Bobby Hyde BVMedSci BVM BVSc (Hons) MRCVS discusses new antimicrobial usage targets for UK livestock.
As antimicrobial usage (AMU) continues to feature heavily in the media, the UK government have provided an overall target of reducing antibiotic use from 62mg per kg of livestock in 2014 to less than 50mg/kg by 2018.
Recent reports from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) indicate we have already hit this target, reaching 45mg/kg in 2016. Whilst this is excellent news for the agricultural industry in general, there has been no clear guidance on targets for individual sectors, with some livestock industries using higher levels of antibiotics than others.
Fortunately, the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) have recently published a report for each agricultural sector highlighting specific targets for AMU reductions. The dairy sector target has been set at 21mg/ kg by 2020, and the beef and sheep sectors have both committed to a 10% reduction in antibiotic use by 2020.
Benchmarking AMU On Dairy Farms
At Scarsdale Vets, we have been benchmarking AMU on dairy farms for some time, and after an excellent benchmarking meeting recently with some passionate discussions (along with a pie and a pint!) it seems a decent number of our dairy farm clients are already well on board with the antibiotic issue. Many farms are already well below the 21mg/kg target, as shown by our anonymously benchmarked chart below. To find out specific information about your farm’s AMU levels, please speak to any of the farm vets.
Antibiotic usage is certainly going to remain in the media spotlight for some time, and it will be up to everyone in the agricultural industry to work together to ensure responsible and justifiable antibiotic use.
Whilst sick animals must still be treated, preventing disease in the first place can result in impressive reductions in AMU, alongside significant increases in the health, welfare and productivity of our animals. Small alterations in farm management (e.g. ventilation, colostrum management, bedding hygiene etc.) can lead to significant reductions in the amount of antibiotics needed for both treatment and prevention of disease.
Our Farm Team are always more than happy to assist with the excitement of an emergency call out, but the routine preventative health visits can yield just as rewarding results, especially when we see disease levels drop and AMU use falling as a result. Have a look at the RUMA website for more details