The latest Antimicrobial Focus Report from Kingshay shows a quarter of UK dairy farmers from those sampled are responsible for 49% of total antibiotic usage in the sector.
The report, which is now in its second year, draws on data from 1,044 dairy herds across the UK in the year to March 2022.
It shows that individual herd antimicrobial use ranged from 0.26 to 87.17 mg/kg PCU, however average total antimicrobial usage for the year was 15.9 mg/kg PCU.
This is up slightly on last year’s figure of 15.5 mg/kg PCU, but down from 21.7 mg/kg PCU in 2018.
Encouragingly the report shows almost three-quarters of herds – 69% – were using less antimicrobials than Kingshay’s benchmarking target of 17.9 mg/kg PCU.
The target has been calculated by Kingshay based on a 15% reduction of RUMA’s (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) 2020 target of 21 mg/kg PCU.
Kingshay and Westpoint Farm Vets Senior Clinical Director and report co-author, Tim Potter, says the findings from the report highlight the need for a more bespoke approach to reducing antimicrobial use on farms.
“Early wins have been made in terms of refining antimicrobial usage on farm but continued effort and further changes are required to reduce the usage further,” he adds.
“A proportion of herds – the highest 25% of antimicrobial users – are accounting for a large amount of usage, so vets and advisors need to be really specific about targeting those high-use farms and working with them to make further progress.”
According to the report, if the highest 25% of antimicrobial users cut their usage by one third, overall average herd usage across the board would reduce to 13.3 mg/kg PCU and 79% of herds would then fall below the 2024 usage target of 17.9 mg/kg PCU.
Kingshay antimicrobial product owner Christina Ford, who co-authored the report, says a regional breakdown of the data shows antimicrobial usage was higher in the North, Wales and Scotland, when compared to the southern regions.
She adds: “The regional variation in antimicrobial usage identified by the report is really interesting but further work is required to understand what is driving this.”
Dr Potter says the report also highlights that injectables remain the most used antimicrobial route of administration on dairy farms – highlighting an area for improvement going forward.
He adds: “Injectables account for between 70 and 76% of usage, irrespective of whether the farm is a high or low users of antimicrobials.
“They are generally used for sick cow management so there’s real value in people regularly reviewing their treatment protocols with their vets to ensure they are using the right products. Regular reviews can also help identify potential management changes such as improvements to buildings, disinfection protocols and nutrition, or the introduction of vaccination programmes that could help reduce the need for antimicrobial treatments in the first place.”
The 2022 annual Antimicrobial Focus Report can be accessed via the Kingshay website: https://www.kingshay.com/news/kingshay-antimicrobial-focus-report-2022/