Huge drop in use of dairy herd antibiotics hailed

Huge drop in use of dairy herd antibiotics hailed

A new report has found a 98% drop in the use of critically important antibiotics across British dairy herds.

Data from 940 dairy farmers and 156 vet practices showed 79% of herds achieved the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) 2020 target of 21mg/kg population correction unit (PCU) by March 2021.

Independent dairy specialists Kingshay, also found a significant uptake among dairy farmers in equipment and measures, such as teat sealants, intended to reduce the reliance on antibiotics.

Report co-author Christina Ford of Kingshay said: “Ensuring we protect our antimicrobials is imperative to animal welfare, and this can only be achieved through responsible use. By investigating their usage and comparing against other farms, producers can develop a clearer understanding of where they sit within the sector, putting their usage into perspective.

“The information can be used by farmers and vets to make on-farm decisions, to improve welfare and management while reducing the reliance on these products. [The report] provides a reliable summary of trends in antimicrobial use in dairy since 2018, which will be of interest to farmers, milk processors, food industry and policymakers.

“The overall message from the report is exceedingly positive – 79% of herds met the RUMA 2020 target by March 2021, and the decline in use of critically important antimicrobials was outstanding; a drop from 1.1mg/kg PCU in 2018 to 0.02mg/kg PCU in 2021.”

The report claims the decline in use is likely due to increased awareness of the products and their importance in human health, along with the change in the Red Tractor Standards in 2018.

Senior clinical director at Kingshay, Tim Potter, above, said: “Last year, 37% of herds were not using teat sealants at all, so there’s definitely room for improvement. Vets, farmers and wider industry need to work together to address the challenges around teat sealant use.

“As a result, VetPartners has invested in the training of our vets and specific training aids to enable us to do this effectively, to ensure we’re able to support our farmers as best we can.”

The first annual Dairy Antimicrobial Focus Report can be accessed here.