Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

Gamebird producers slash antibiotic use

RUMA has welcomed figures released today which show that in the two years since the gamebird sector rolled out its voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics, overall use has fallen by 51%, with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed slashed by 70%.

The figures, announced by The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA), have been calculated in collaboration with Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and are based on prescriptions written by gamebird vets throughout the UK. The association says that a further year of good engagement by the gamebird sector in 2018 has brought overall usage of antibiotics down by another 24% this year. Together with last year’s substantial fall, this confirms that the industry has halved antibiotic use since our voluntary campaign was rolled out in 2016.

Detailed analysis of the 2018 result shows that in-feed use fell by 35% this year, whilst use of antibiotic in soluble treatments fell by 10%. The difference reflects a continuing focus on treating actual disease outbreaks rather than feeding medicated rations ‘just in case’, and also the need to treat some late disease outbreaks associated with the excessively hot summer.

Further antibiotic reductions in farming welcomed amid calls for better cattle and sheep data

A fall of 18% in sales of all antibiotics used to treat UK farm animals last year, and 29% in sales of highest priority critically-important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), has been welcomed by RUMA.

The new data released today (24 October) by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in its 2017 Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report means that sales of veterinary antibiotics for use in farm animals have fallen by a total of 40% since 2013, and now sit at 37mg/kg.

The VMD’s surveillance programme also shows that resistance to antibiotics in bacterial isolates taken from food-producing animals remains low for most antibiotics, and is absent for others.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has praised the hard work undertaken to reach this point, with the UK one of the lowest users of antibiotics for farm animals in Europe. But he also cautions there is lots more to do in driving responsible use while safeguarding animal health and welfare and food safety. Engagement with efforts to improve data collection remains a key part of this.

“Because a large percentage of products are used to treat multiple species of animal, figures for actual use by species, on farms, are critical to understand patterns in individual sectors. They are also needed to help those sectors to monitor, improve and get recognition for their achievements – and to meet their 2020 antibiotic use targets,” explains Mr Jones.

He says most of the reductions over the past few years have come from first the poultry meat sector, then pig and gamebird sectors, which have all released comprehensive usage figures covering almost all their producers.

Smaller datasets are being accessed for dairy and beef – a big step forward – but national data on these sectors remains harder to capture due to their more diverse supply chains, the large number of producers involved and greater prevalence of mixed enterprise operations.

“This means we can’t be sure of how representative the figures are,” says Mr Jones. “For example, antibiotic usage figures in the 2017 VARSS report indicate that dairy cows fell from 26mg/kg in 2016 to 17mg/kg in 2017. This is based on one large dataset of veterinary practice prescriptions – the best we currently have – but we must be mindful that because this database covers 31% of dairy cows, it may not be typical of the whole dairy sector.

“Recent studies have also suggested that while few antibiotics are used in the best dairy operations, a small number of farms could be responsible for a large portion of use*. Improving the quality of data collection can only help us better understand where we really are, and inform and advise those who need to change their practices.”

Similar issues have arisen in beef cattle with the relatively small dataset in the 2017 VARSS report suggesting antibiotic use at 19mg/kg, whereas it was previously considered to be lower. “A wide range across different types and stages of beef production is likely, but we won’t know unless we have meaningful national data from producers themselves.

“The same applies to the sheep sector, which is working very hard with great leadership on tackling usage ‘hotspots’, but currently lacks the data to quantify progress,” adds Mr Jones.

One solution could be around the corner in the form of an electronic Medicine Book (eMB) for cattle. Currently being run as a pilot project at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), eMB-Cattle is being modelled on the successful eMB-Pigs, which – based on a Red Tractor assurance requirement – has secured antibiotic usage data for around 90% of the national pig herd in 2017.

In the meantime cattle and sheep farmers have responded positively to the call for responsible use, and individual veterinary practices, assurance schemes, retail supply chains and consultants have launched initiatives over the past two years to support them. These range from recording and benchmarking antibiotic use to systematic evaluation of current practices so that areas to improve stewardship can be identified.

RUMA will cover many of these initiatives in a ‘Targets Task Force: One-Year On’ report on progress against sector-specific goals, due to be released in November.


* Quantitative analysis of antimicrobial use on British dairy farms. Hyde R et al, Veterinary Record (2017) 181(25).

Latest ESVAC report highlights overall progress as well as UK efforts to reduce antibiotic use

While UK farm animal antibiotic sales data for 2016 have been out for almost 12 months, the European Medicines Agency’s Eighth ESVAC report on Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 30 European countries in 2016 is the first opportunity to review progress to reduce, refine or replace antibiotics across all European countries in that year. While different countries face very different challenges which make it difficult to compare progress, the ESVAC report is useful for ensuring the UK is making appropriate and adequate contributions to responsible use of antibiotics which are important to both human and animal health.

Overall, it’s very welcome news that antibiotic sales for European farm animals have fallen so significantly over the past 6 years – by some 20%. The UK’s significant reduction in antibiotic use over the past two years means that it was among the lowest users of antibiotics overall in 2016, but particularly among countries that have large domestic populations and /or highly productive farm animal sectors.

To quantify this in antibiotic sales per weight of livestock (in kg) at time of treatment (mg/PCU), the UK’s 2016 sales of antibiotics to food producing animals was 45mg/PCU compared with the European average of 125mg/PCU. The UK had the lowest colistin sales of any country maintaining access to this highest priority antibiotic, at just 0.02mg/PCU against the European average of 6.4mg/PCU; the EU’s recommended maximum level of use for colistin is 1mg/PCU. And UK sales of the other highest priority antibiotics – fluoroquinolones and 3rd & 4th generation cephalosporins – also show good progress, at 0.2mg/PCU and 0.1mg/PCU respectively compared with European averages 2.7mg/PCU and 0.2mg/PCU.

While the downward trend in usage across Europe is a positive start, it is important to ensure that animals continue to be able to receive the most appropriate treatment when necessary. For this reason the EU must promote and support the development of alternative treatments and management tools to deliver improvements in animal health and welfare and public health.

UK (mg/PCU) EU Average (mg/PCU)
Total Use 45 124.6
Fluoroquinolones 0.2 2.7
3rd and 4th Gen Cephalosporins 0.1 0.2
Polymyxins (colistin) 0.02 6.4

UK antibiotic sales data for 2017 are due to be released in late October 2018.

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