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Latest RUMA Targets Task Force report reveals that despite an unprecedented year, UK livestock sectors are making good progress on antibiotic use targets

RUMA Targets Task Force 2: One Year on Nov 2021The ‘one year on’ RUMA Targets Task Force 2 (TTF2) report has been released today, summarising the first year’s progress against the second set of antibiotic use targets which span 2021-2024.

The report highlights where targets are already being achieved or sustained, and where challenges remain. It reveals that for some sectors it is still too early in the four-year targets cycle to provide accurate data, but where data is provided it indicates good first year progress, despite the challenges of the global pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU.

The summary report covers ten sectors across aquaculture, pigs, poultry and ruminants.

This ‘one year on’ review provides the first annual progress update towards the second set of TTF2 goals across all UK livestock sectors for data collection, use of antibiotics, uptake of preventative measures such as vaccines and training, and the development of industry initiatives. The latest targets build on the successful implementation of the last targets released back in 2017 which helped to halve sales of antibiotics to treat UK farm animals and achieve the fifth-lowest usage in Europe, with only Nordic countries lower[1].

The unprecedented nature of the past year has resulted in significant industry challenges including supply chain resource and infrastructure issues, and labour difficulties. These unique set of circumstances have had far reaching and varying impacts some of which, are yet to be fully understood across the farming industry and the journey towards the targets.

As a result of these global and political impacts some sectors such as gamebirds had reduced production and others such as the pig sector, experienced considerable supply chain issues with animals remaining on farm for significantly longer periods of time than normal. This means that some of the figures reported are not representative of a ‘normal’ year of activity. In addition, the process the sectors have gone through to work towards their targets has in some cases, also been unavoidably affected and caused delays to the development and launch of key initiatives. It is not yet known the full effect this will have on the targets and how long it will take for these impacts to be felt, understood, and addressed. Equally, the report shows that the onset of environmental issues related to global climate change have had impacts in some sectors too.

Cat McLaughlin, RUMA Chair & Chair of the RUMA Targets Task Force 2 says: “Despite an exceptional 12 months, there have been some great achievements realised in year one of the second set of RUMA Targets Task Force targets, which is testament to the hard-work and commitment across all sectors. As well as striving to achieve or sustain key targets a number of important industry initiatives have also been launched including Farm Vet Champions and the Medicine Hub.

“Events of the past year have undoubtedly affected the industry in many ways, but producers, vets, and wider industry, have continued to manage with the utmost professionalism and commitment to the responsible use of antibiotics through this challenging time.

“It is important to remember that the targets are not about driving towards zero antibiotic use; antibiotics are needed when necessary as a tool to treat sick animals and to improve and maintain animal welfare. Each sector will ultimately reach a sustainable level below which further reductions could negatively impact animal welfare. For now, efforts to maintain or continue reductions across most sectors are delivering good results, but it is to be expected that usage is beginning to level out or even bounce back a small amount in some cases where sustainable use has been achieved.”

When considering the key challenges that still lie ahead, Cat says: “Collation of robust data remains a priority especially in the ruminant sectors. Industry level data and figures are essential to illustrate the general direction and provide focus for sector activities, but farm level data is also vital and gives farmers the autonomy to set their own goals and targets to achieve realistic and sustainable levels of responsible use. Equally, we know that global climate change remains an ongoing challenge for agriculture as we move forward.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s (VMD) Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS 2020) report, was also released today, and shows that UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have reduced by 52% (when sales were recorded at 62.3 mg/kg).

Abigail Seager, Chief Executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, said: “Working closely with the farming industry and the veterinary profession, we have achieved huge reductions in the use of antibiotics since 2014 and we are seeing reductions in resistance as well.

“These successes are testament to the cooperation between farmers and vets in promoting the responsible use of antibiotics.”

[1]  European Medicines Agency (2020). Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 31 European countries in 2018: Trends 2010-2018 (Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the countries with the lowest sales).

Invitation to tender: Delivering a comms strategy for RUMA

RUMA is seeking professional communications support to maintain its position as the go-to organisation on issues relating to responsible use of medicines across UK agriculture.

Its activities cover the breadth of animal medicine, but recently it has had a focus on the use of antibiotics and responsible reductions without negative impact on animal health, welfare or food safety.

RUMA’s work includes coordination of the Targets Task Force and liaison with sector sub groups to promote the cross sector voluntary response to the AMR challenge.

An Independent Scientific Group (ISG), made up of experts from the veterinary and medical professions, advises RUMA on its strategic priorities and positions, acting as a critical friend and ensuring that RUMA remains science and evidence led.

The RUMA communication role will support both the TTF to include coordination of an annual report on progress towards the sector targets, support to sectors to amplify messages around their activities / targets and case studies where relevant and the ISG as appropriate, and when requested by RUMA Officeholders.

The RUMA Communication position includes the following activities: –

  • Communication advice to RUMA (Officeholders and Board)
  • Media monitoring and reporting of industry challenges and related issues
  • Liaison with other RUMA Alliance member communications
  • Liaison with RUMA’s new sister organisation the RUMA Companion Animals and Equine Group
  • RUMA newsletter – collation of existing published articles and circulation
  • Writing, and having gained approval from RUMA Officeholders and Board, the release of RUMA press releases, position statements, and responses to issues
  • Communication support to the TTF to include an annual progress report – compilation publication and media briefing
  • Web content and development
  • Maintaining RUMA’s social media presence through the management of the RUMA Twitter account
  • Input to RUMA conference themes and content
  • Coordination of comms around the RUMA conference
  • Input / delivery of RUMA reports as specific projects; these could involve seeking expert opinions and input from the ISG
  • Issues management advice
  • Providing a communication input to relevant Officeholder and Board discussions and developments impacting on RUMA’s reputation and strategy

Background  

RUMA – the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals Alliance – is an industry stakeholder organisation which provides leadership on the responsible use of medicines in farm animals including antibiotics.

Its work supports the development of a UK livestock industry which is innovative and proactive in its efforts to drive the responsible use of medicines to ensure good animal health, associated welfare and food safety.

It works to secure confidence amongst stakeholders including government and the public that the industry is fully engaged on issues of responsible use and is ‘doing things right’.

RUMA currently has 26 member organisations and wants to maintain its position as the go to organisation on issues of responsible medicine use in livestock.

In addition, it needs to be ready to explain the industry position on related issues in the event of criticism and challenge about the use of medicines, particularly antibiotics in farm animals.

RUMA has a list of relevant stakeholders, including government officials across the devolved administrations, policy regulators, opinion formers throughout livestock supply chains and the human medical sector as part of the One Health agenda.

RUMA has two key strategic objectives, under which it coordinates a series of activities: –

Strategic Objective 1

Champion the responsible use of animal medicines in UK livestock.

Strategic Objective 2

Maintain a specific focus on AMR and the responsible use of antibiotics in UK livestock, coordinating activities which contribute to the UK 5 Year AMR Strategy.

RUMA is a private company limited by guarantee, funded solely by members’ annual fees. The contract for this tender will be with RUMA reporting to the Secretary General.

For more information on RUMA please visit our website www.ruma.org.uk.

  • Tenders are invited from interested parties with relevant experience of the agricultural sector. For further information contact the RUMA Secretary General, Chris Lloyd at chris@ruma.org.uk. Applications close 1st February 2021.
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