New antibiotic targets for UK farm animals build on previous success

New targets for the responsible use of antibiotics in UK farm animals over the next four years have been released today, on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, by a task force of leading vets and farmers.

The new goals, facilitated by RUMA and set out in ‘Targets Task Force Report 2020’, build on the successful implementation of the last targets released in 2017. overall, these have helped to halve sales of antibiotics to treat UK farm animals and achieve the fifth-lowest usage in Europe, with only Nordic countries lower.

The report, launched alongside the Veterinary Medicine Directorate’s (VMD) release of antibiotic sales data for 2019, covers 10 sectors across aquaculture, pigs, poultry and ruminants. For the first time, calf rearing is examined in isolation in order to focus in on the specific health and welfare interventions that will reduce the need for antibiotic treatments.

With over 75% of the original targets now achieved early or on track to be achieved by the December 2020 deadline, the time is right to ‘reset’ with refreshed challenges for the next four years says RUMA chair Cat McLaughlin.

She says: “The UK farming industry has responded extremely well to the targets. our original aim of lowering overall antibiotic use, and in particular highest-priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), has been categorically achieved in the face of some challenging external conditions.

“Most sectors are now capturing data on antibiotic use across 90% or more of their sector which has been a key part of the success. Even where usage data is lacking but good sales data are available, for example in cattle and sheep, sizable reductions have been achieved especially in sales of HP-CIAs.”

RUMA chair Cat McLaughlin

RUMA chair Cat McLaughlin

However, she said the overall picture in terms of use in the large and diverse cattle and sheep sectors is still lacking, which is why targets for 2024 include the collection of data into the new AHDB Medicine Hub, a UK centralised database for ruminants.

Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive of the VMD, has welcomed the report, confirming that the UK livestock sectors already have good progress behind them. 

“The ambition now outlined in this report, alongside the proactive, holistic approaches and focus on behaviour change principles gives me every confidence that they will once again succeed,” he said.

“We look forward to working with the sectors as we continue on this endeavour, which will ultimately be of benefit to the reputation of the UK livestock sectors as well as helping to protect human and animal health.”

 

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