Archive for the ‘antimicrobials press’ Category

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.

Response to article in The Guardian 27 September 2018

In response to “UK could use Brexit to avoid EU ban on antibiotics overuse in farming” (27 Sep, The Guardian):

As The Guardian will be aware from recent reports into antibiotic sales and use in the UK farming industry, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), as regulator, made it clear in its 2013 5-Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy that action needed to be taken to eliminate unnecessary antibiotic use in livestock, and the industry has responded.

Antibiotic sales for farm animals fell by 27% between 2014 and 2016 to reach a record low, and were shown to be 60% below the EU average in 2015. Sales of colistin – an antibiotic of last resort in human medicine – reduced to 2% of the EU recommended maximum in farm animals in 2016, and use of other highest priority antibiotics has been severely restricted by veterinary surgeons and through Red Tractor assurance to ‘last resort to prevent animal suffering’. As a result, sales are also falling dramatically in these. We are optimistic that further reductions will be reported late October when sales data for 2017 is released, and future reductions, refinements or replacements are already being actioned in each sector thanks to the specific targets identified by industry last year and endorsed by the VMD.

Campaign aims to remind prescribers and farmers that #VaccinesWork

A new #VaccinesWork campaign running from early September to the end of October will explore the role vaccines can play in helping to protect health and welfare in all farm animal sectors, and in supporting reductions, replacements or refinements in antibiotic use.

In particular, it will highlight the differences in vaccine penetration between farm animal sectors, highlighting where there may be scope for greater uptake, as well as the gains to be made from storing, handling and administering vaccines correctly.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, which is co-ordinating the campaign, says the poultry and fish sectors have successfully used vaccines for a number of years within comprehensive and integrated health programmes. With considerable achievements in antibiotic stewardship under their belts, it’s hoped other sectors will take inspiration from this.

“Vaccination is not a ‘silver bullet’ for disease control, but it can be an important part of an infection prevention and control of disease planning process, which all farms should have in place in consultation with their vet,” explains RUMA’s secretary general Chris Lloyd.

“In the sheep and cattle sectors, uptake of vaccines is generally low, so the campaign will ask farmers and prescribers to consider whether there is scope to increase levels of vaccination to improve herd or flock immunity – and potentially profitability – on their farms.

“Vaccination is already much higher in pigs, but improving how vaccines are stored, handled and administered could boost results significantly.”

He points out that more than 50 vaccines are currently available for both cattle and pigs to treat a wide range of bacterial, viral and protozoal diseases, and almost 30 for sheep [1]. “We want to ask whether we are really making best use of the protection these could offer,” he says.

He says figures from 2016 suggest only 17% of cattle that could be vaccinated against Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) were given vaccine despite half of herds being affected, and just 22% of cattle received the vaccine for the virus that causes Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) despite the disease being present in 70% of herds [2].

“Sheep face similar challenges,” says Mr Lloyd. “Just 42% of sheep farmers are currently vaccinating against clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis, two of the most common preventable diseases causing death in sheep and lambs. And only 36% are vaccinating for enzootic abortion and 22% for toxoplasmosis, which are responsible for more than three-quarters of abortions or stillbirths between them [3].”

Specialist sheep veterinarian Fiona Lovatt says vaccination against both abortion and footrot are key elements of the sector’s plans to tackle ‘hotspot’ areas of antibiotic use in what is a relatively low-use sector. But she says farmers will need to move quickly if they want to improve protection against abortion for the coming season.

“Ewes need to be vaccinated four weeks before the tups are turned out,” she explains. “So farmers need to act quickly to protect their ewes and prevent abortions at their next lambing. Everyone who buys in ewes is at risk of enzootic abortion and by far the best protection – as well as the most cost-effective – is to vaccinate ewes before they go to the tup for the first time.”

Pigs have far higher uptake of vaccines than cattle and sheep, with 90% of all eligible pigs being vaccinated for Porcine Circovirus (PCV2) and around 70% for Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. Vaccination for Porcine Reproductive & Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), known as Blue Ear, is also common.

But Mandy Nevel from AHDB Pork says that while uptake of vaccines is high, this doesn’t guarantee the vaccines will work as well as they could.

“It’s good news that vaccines are so well-used, but the number of animals involved means vaccination is not an easy job. It can be stressful to handlers and animals, leading to short cuts and poor practice.

“A failure to correctly follow storage, administration and vaccine course instructions can undermine the efficacy of the vaccine which can mean they do not work as well as they can. This may include incorrect storage temperatures – especially freezing – as well as expired use-by dates and failure to deliver the full course.

“This is why – for pigs – the #VaccinesWork campaign will be encouraging producers to look at what could be stopping them and their employees making the most of their vaccination programmes.”

In order to ensure prescribed vaccines work effectively, it is essential that the manufacturer and prescriber’s instructions on storage, dose rate and dose interval (e.g. if repeat doses are needed) are followed accurately.

Occasionally, a disease challenge may present itself for which there is no suitable licensed vaccine. In consultation with the farm vet, laboratories can sometimes  develop what are known as autogenous vaccines specific to the pathogen causing the problem on the farm. The vet may also, in some circumstances and in consultation with the regulatory authorities, be able to import a suitable vaccine from either another EU country or from outside of the EU.

To find out more about #VaccinesWork go to, where you can post messages of support or advice, and tweet your top tips.



[1]  NOAH Compendium (2018)

[2], [3]  MSD, Looking Beyond Antibiotics (2017)

New AMR surveillance report from FSA welcomed by RUMA

The Food Standards Agency has today released a surveillance study of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from chicken and pork on sale in the UK. Its aim is to address current gaps in evidence about the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in meat, and throw light on any links with antibiotics used to treat disease in farm animals.

Gwyn Jones, the Chair of the RUMA Alliance, has welcomed the report, saying: “Our focus is on reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use; while some livestock sectors have already achieved extraordinary results, there is definitely more to do in others. We believe the FSA’s new research will add to the bank of knowledge and help identify additional interventions that have the potential to reduce antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food, while safeguarding our continued access to antibiotics which treat disease and prevent pain or suffering in animals.”

He added: “It’s important to recognise that antibiotic resistance is a naturally-occurring phenomenon which happens as bacteria defend themselves against attack. Resistant bacteria can be found anywhere and everywhere, and any use of antibiotics in human or animal medicine can lead to the development of resistance. However, cutting antibiotic use doesn’t necessarily cut the levels of resistant bacteria found, and that is why this study will prove valuable over time as more datasets are added.

“In the meantime, we are pleased that the FSA’s advice is the risk presented by any antibiotic resistant bacteria in food remains very low, and that raw food should – as ever – be stored appropriately, handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to ensure any bacteria present, resistant or not, are destroyed.”

Conference to examine AMR in the food chain

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss will give the keynote address at the first national conference to examine global impacts of farm antibiotic use which is aimed at the food supply chain.

Covering the whole chain from ‘farm and vet to ‘fork’ but focusing specifically on the processing, retail and food service sectors, the ‘Antibiotic Stewardship in Animal Health and the Food Chain‘ conference will be held on 4 October at Resource for London (London, N7).

The conference, which is supported by RUMA, will show how good antibiotic stewardship is a key part of tackling the global epidemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It will take a novel look at how strategies in different food supply chains are proving successful in ensuring the ongoing effectiveness of antibiotics that treat both animals and humans.

Speaking about the reason for bringing representatives of these sectors together at this event, Conference Director Scott Buckler said: “The global health crisis caused by antibiotic resistance should not be underestimated by any professional working in animal or food sectors.

“While progress has been made in some areas, the issue is still being ignored by too many organisations. We want to change that at this event, and highlight the urgent need to engage and act.

“As well as equipping attendees with tools, guidance, support and an understanding of the facts and priorities, we will be inspiring them with success stories. For example, poultry meat is one of the sectors that is sometimes criticised in the media – but in the UK they have reduced antibiotic use by 82% in six years. The British Poultry Council will be speaking at the event to clear up some of the myths and show how they brought their sector together in a ground-breaking antibiotic stewardship programme,” said Scott.

Also speaking at the event are Professor Guy Poppy from the Food Standards Agency, Professor Peter Borriello from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and the Presidents of both the British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and the Society for Applied Microbiology, Philip Howard and Professor Mark Fielder.

Representatives from Marks and Spencer, Tesco, NOAH, Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare, University of Bristol, RUMA, Bella Moss Foundation, Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, and the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust will also be presenting.

RUMA is pleased to support this conference. For more information, and to book, go to Please note tickets are limited.

RUMA position on feeding waste milk to calves

RUMA has issued a new position on feeding calves waste milk from cows treated with antibiotics. It says: “Waste milk (excluding colostrum*) from cows under the statutory withdrawal period for antibiotics should not be fed to youngstock. Based on current evidence it is recommended that a practical solution for on-farm disposal is to dispose of waste milk in the slurry pit. RUMA encourages further research into disposal options to identify practical alternatives and to gain a better understanding of any potential environmental interactions associated with disposal via this route.”


Interim report shows UK farming’s progress towards antibiotic use targets

RUMA has released a half-year summary of the UK farming industry’s progress towards achieving 2020 targets for antibiotic use in each of eight different livestock sectors.

The targets, developed last year by the Targets Task Force and published in October 2017, include a number of numerical and qualitative goals towards reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use in UK farm animals.

RUMA’s secretary general Chris Lloyd says a comprehensive review of progress is due in November. “In the meantime this four-page summary provides a flavour of some of the activities being implemented to build on the successful reduction of 27% in overall farm antibiotic sales 2014-2016.”

He adds that it’s important to note each sector is very different – in terms of when they were first able to engage with the issue, disease pressure, number of producers and structure. “This is why some have already made significant changes and are ‘refining’ how and when antibiotics are used, while others are working on bigger issues of data, communication and usage ‘hotspots’,” says Mr Lloyd.

“But whatever the stage, all remain fully engaged on driving improvement and best practice to ensure the targets can be achieved by 2020.”

Download the half-year summary here RUMA Half Year Summary FINAL.

UK farming receives accolades at Antibiotic Guardian awards

The UK farming industry took the Antibiotic Guardian Awards by storm last night (27 June), in the third annual event which saw entries from as far afield as Malaysia and New Zealand competing for recognition of efforts to slow the onset of drug-resistant infections.

The evening started with Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies acknowledging the antibiotic stewardship achievements of the poultry meat and pig sectors within her opening speech; it ended with a tally of three wins and three ‘highly commended’ awards for farming.

The awards, run by mission-driven event organisers 4 All of Us on behalf of Public Health England (PHE), included an Agriculture and Food category for the first time this year. This was the focus for most farming entries, attracting 16 including retailers, universities, independent businesses and farmers, with nine scoring highly enough to be shortlisted by the judges.

In the end, top honours in this category went to University of Bristol Veterinary School’s ‘AMR Force’ programme which researches key topics around veterinary antimicrobial resistance. Alongside it, both the British Poultry Council and Wayland Farms were highly commended.

The wins continued in other categories which had, to date, been more healthcare-focused.

One such category, the Prescribing & Stewardship award, was hotly contested with 10 shortlisted entries including various NHS Trusts and a leading Malaysian hospital. While ABP/Blade Farming was highly commended, it was the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance who secured top spot with its ‘Target Task Force’ initiative, a cross-sector collaboration between vets and farmers to identify baseline antibiotic usage then set and agree specific targets for species as diverse as pigs, sheep, gamebirds and fish.

Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope from Antibiotic Guardian, who is also Lead Pharmacist of the Antimicrobial Resistance programme for PHE, singled out the Targets Task Force entry for particular comment. With the concept focusing on ‘bottom-up ownership’ of antibiotic stewardship rather than ‘top-down regulation’, Dr Ashiru-Oredope remarked that it had been a “clear unanimous winner, scoring very highly among the judges”.

RUMA bagged its second win of the evening in the Community Communications award for the #ColostrumIsGold campaign. Running throughout February, the campaign aimed to cut the need for antibiotics in neonatal and older animals through improved colostrum management at birth.

Amy Jackson, who collected the awards on behalf of RUMA, said it was a very proud moment to see the farming industry holding its own at such a prestigious ‘One Health’ event.

She said: “The last two years have been incredibly hard work for all involved in engaging the farming industry with the issue of antibiotic resistance. But tonight’s event, including the number of entries from farming and the quality of the shortlists, shows the progress we’ve made. The discussion really has moved on from ‘who is to blame’, to ‘what can we do?’, and the best practice on show will help us all take a truly One Health approach in the future.”

Other shortlisted entries in the Agriculture & Food category were Pyon Products, The Co-op, Tesco, MSD Animal Health, Waitrose Farming Partnership and University of Nottingham. Semex and ABP were also shortlisted in the Innovation category.


RUMA welcomes news that UK pig sector has halved antibiotic use in two years

RUMA has welcomed the news released today that the UK pig sector has halved its antibiotic use over two years. The latest reduction of 28 percent has brought use in the sector down to 131mg/PCU for 2017, hot on the heels of a 34 percent reduction in 2016.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones has praised pig producers, vets and industry organisations for the huge strides they have made in achieving this goal, and says their perseverance and courage should be recognised.

Read the full announcement from AHDB here.



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