Archive for the ‘RUMA News’ Category

UK cattle vets to spearhead crucial antibiotic data collection

Cattle vets are being called on to spearhead efforts to populate the new national Medicine Hub with farm antibiotic data.

The call to action, made at the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) Congress this week (14-16 October) in Newport, asks vets to help dairy, beef and sheep clients register on the Medicine Hub before the end of the year so they can confidentially share data with it on farmers’ behalf.

UK farms already have among the lowest use of antibiotics in Europe1. But while pig, poultry and aquaculture sectors capture antibiotic data for over 90 per cent of production, the large and complex dairy, beef and sheep sectors have struggled to evidence responsible use due to lack of this type of national-level data2.

The industry-led Medicine Hub – developed by AHDB – plans to address this. With unprecedented farm-to-fork support3, it offers a safe, secure and independent central repository to collate, report and compare antibiotic data from a variety of sources, including on-farm farm use and datasets from vets and processors.

The Medicine Hub is also developing interfaces to transfer in data collected by the Welsh Lamb & Beef Producers antimicrobial use calculator app4 and the STAMP antimicrobial usage benchmarking tool in Northern Ireland5. In addition to this, Quality Meat Scotland’s commitment to promoting good antibiotic stewardship includes mandatory collation of antibiotic data to contribute to national recording.

Both BCVA and the Sheep Veterinary Society have promoted the Medicine Hub in recent months. Registering farm clients will now be an important first step towards demonstrating the success of a wide range of antibiotic stewardship activities undertaken in these sectors over the past five years.

BCVA board member and cattle vet Rachel Hayton, who chairs the Medicine Hub’s industry liaison group and will be speaking about it at the Congress, says it will take time for the Medicine Hub to fully evolve – but the information it eventually provides will be invaluable for many reasons.

“We need to consider UK producers’ reputation and accountability, and meet new national antibiotic use targets agreed by vets and producers through the RUMA Targets Task Force in November 20206,” she explains.

“We know both vets and farmers have been committed to raising the bar on responsible use of antibiotics – we want them to be able to prove this!”

In addition to meeting national targets, Rachel says UK farmers and vets need to consider EU rule changes, with member countries having to provide information on antibiotic use in cattle from 2023 and sheep from 2026.

“This will apply to Northern Ireland directly, but the other three nations indirectly too as they seek trade deals with the EU.

“Vets, as the prescribers and gatekeepers of antibiotics, have a huge role to play in this, which is why we’re asking cattle vets to step up now and be part of developing this hugely exciting platform. Knowing the whole industry is behind this should give vets and farmers alike a huge boost!”

Rachel adds that some vet and producer groups, especially in the dairy sector, are already collating and comparing data. “Subject to data permissions, we are aiming for these private datasets to be incorporated into the Medicine Hub without duplication on the part of the farmer.

“The Medicine Hub will eventually offer everyone with antibiotic data, whether a single farmer, software company, or consultancy with thousands of records, the chance to benchmark their records against the national dataset.”

To find out more about the Medicine Hub and to get registered, please go to

[1] European Medicines Agency – European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC)

[2] Veterinary Medicines Directorate – Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance

[3] Industry support for the Medicine Hub has been received from AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board), Anglo Beef Producers UK, Blade Farming, British Cattle Veterinary Association, British Retail Consortium, British Veterinary Association, Cattle Antibiotic Guardian Group, Co-op, Dairy UK, Farm Vet Champions, Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials, Map of Ag, National Beef Association, National Sheep Association, Red Tractor, RCVS Knowledge, Ruminant Health and Welfare, RUMA, Sheep Antibiotic Guardian Group, Sheep Veterinary Society and Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate also supports the initiative.

[4] WLBP –

[5] STAMP –

[6] RUMA – Targets Task Force Report 2020


14 October 2021

Issued by Amy Jackson on behalf of the Medicine Hub Industry Liaison Group Contacts:

Amy Jackson

Rachel Hayton

Alistair McLaren (AHDB, re Medicine Hub)

Notes to Editors

  1. Adjustments will continue to be made to until Thursday 14 October.
  2. Steps to engage with the Medicine Hub
    The aim for vets is to get clients to:
    i) Register on the Medicine Hub by going to
    ii) Identify enterprises on the farm
    iii) Set up third party permissions
    iv) Get cattle farmers to register with CTS Web Services (if not already) by completing the CTS Web Service user ID and password request form (the link to CTS Web services request form available on the Medicine Hub news page).
    v) Set up the link to CTS within Medicine Hub
  1. At BCVA Congress

On Thursday 14 October at 3pm at the BCVA Congress, delegates can join BCVA board member and cattle vet Rachel Hayton and beef and sheep farmer Mark Jelley to discover more about the Medicine Hub, where they will answer the question: “Where do I start and how will it help my clients?” – taking place in the Dexter Room at Celtic Manor, Newport. Vets who would like to be part of this industry effort can also visit the Medicine Hub stand at the Congress to see a demonstration of the platform. Fiona Lovatt, Clinical Lead of RCVS Knowledge’s Farm Vet Champions project, will also be speaking at the BCVA Congress on Thursday 14 October. Fiona will discuss the opportunities that Farm Vet Champions offers the whole practice team, in championing good antimicrobial stewardship. Fiona will be joined by RCVS Knowledge’s Farm Vet Champions Project Manager, Lucy Coyne, on Friday 15 October, to host a workshop for those who are taking part in the Farm Vet Champions initiative. The workshop will explore how Farm Vet Champions can use and apply what they learn through the online training, by setting goals and tracking progress alongside like-minded colleagues.

  1. RUMA targets

The creation and roll out of sector specific targets in 2017 through the RUMA Targets Task Force helped focus activity across the UK livestock sectors to achieve a 50% reduction in antibiotic use since 2014, which has been realised principally through voluntary multi-sector collaboration, cross sector initiatives, codes of practice, industry body support and farm assurance schemes.

  1. Industry Support

Logos for the industry supporters of the Medicine Hub are available from

One of the RUMA conference Gold Sponsors, Sainsbury’s, shares how it is working to tackle AMR

RUMA is delighted to welcome the support of Sainsbury’s as one of our GOLD sponsors for the forthcoming RUMA conference, which is being held online on the 18 November 2021. Tickets are available for purchase via this link.

RUMA asked Matt Turner, Agriculture Manager at Sainsbury’s, to share the ways the retailer is working to tackle AMR. Matt’s work focuses on improving the health and welfare of animals in the Sainsbury’s supply chains and ensuring the responsible use of antimicrobials.

Asked why Sainsbury’s is sponsoring the RUMA 2021 Conference, Matt says: “RUMA is an invaluable industry body which provides leadership and momentum to continuously improve the responsible use of medicines on farm. The cross-sector working that RUMA drives is unique and has proven incredibly successful. It brings the industry together and their conference this year has a superb line-up of speakers and sessions covering a variety of responsible use topics. RUMA’s role and remit aligns to the work Sainsbury’s undertakes in tackling AMR which makes the conference a natural fit with us. The conference will help highlight the great achievement so far and will help shape ongoing discussion and action to support the industry to achieve its targets.”

Matt Turner shares excerpts from the Sainsbury’s Antibiotic Report 2021:

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health issue, predicted to cause 10 million deaths by 2050 (more than cancer!). The UK agricultural industry has reduced total antibiotic use by 50% since 2014, and the use of critically important antibiotics by 75% since 2014.

Sainsbury’s is committed to ensuring antibiotics are used responsibly through supporting farmer training, research and monitoring usage. We have a robust antibiotic policy which means:

  • antibiotics cannot be used to promote growth
  • they cannot be used routinely to prevent disease
  • critically important antibiotics can only be used as a last resort, if needed to safeguard animal welfare

At Sainsbury’s we recognise our farmers are facing the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance and we have an important role to play in promoting responsible use. To help reduce reliance on antibiotics, we’re working closely with our farmers to minimise their use in three key ways:

Continuing to improve health and welfare: The health and welfare of animals within our supply chains is extremely important to us, and, for many years, we’ve worked hard to ensure we meet the high standards our customers expect. For example, we were the first major UK retailer to commit to only selling cage-free shell eggs; we invested substantially in research to support reducing the confinement of sows in indoor pig production and we sell more RSPCA Assured products than any other retailer. We also know that high standards of animal health and welfare are essential for enabling farmers to reduce their use of antibiotics. We work with our farmers to ensure their focus is on effective management and veterinary health planning, which will help them keep their animals healthy. We also measure animal health and welfare outcomes which allows farmers to benchmark themselves against industry standards and encourages a continuous cycle of learning and improvement. 

Using antibiotics responsibly: We’re working with industry bodies and organisations such as RUMA, and the veterinary community, to promote the responsible use of antibiotics and help our farmers understand how reducing antibiotic use on their farm can contribute to tackling global antibiotic resistance. Our standards strictly prohibit the routine use of antibiotics, and the use of antibiotics for the purpose of increasing growth and production. We ensure antibiotics are reserved only for when they’re the best way to keep an animal healthy. All our farmers also adhere to strict rules which ensure the meat, milk and eggs our consumer buy from us do not contain traces of antibiotics. In addition, we’re focusing on reducing the use of antibiotics which are considered critically important to human health (as defined by the European Medicines Agency). We minimise the use of these critically important antibiotics (CIAs) within our supply chains, promoting the responsible use of the most appropriate antibiotics.

Research and data: We believe collecting robust and representative data is key to helping farmers reduce their antibiotic usage and increase our understanding of what causes resistance. To achieve this, we’re working in partnership with other UK retailers, supply chain partners, scientists and health professionals to promote responsible use, to collect data and tackle the issue of antibiotic resistance together for example, via the newly launched Medicine Hub. Combining the insights we gather with health and welfare outcome data is allowing us to develop a fuller picture of the situation and identify ways we can improve animal health and how antibiotics are used.

RUMA Targets

In 2017 the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) published a series of antibiotic usage targets to focus efforts to reduce antibiotic use towards 2020. Back then this was a totally new concept, as was measuring antibiotic use in this way for most people, but everyone across agriculture has worked together to reduce, refine and replace antibiotics to ensure the RUMA targets are achieved. In fact, for the first set of targets for 2020, many sectors met their targets two years early due to the collective effort of everyone involved, particularly farmers and vets working to improve animal health and find new ways of treating disease which don’t rely on antibiotic treatment. Sainsbury’s has been working closely with our farmers since the RUMA targets were published in 2017 to collect and monitor antibiotic use in our supply chains and continues to do so today aligned to the latest set of RUMA targets.


Sainsbury’s overarching goal is to ensure antibiotic use within our supply chains is below the RUMA 2020 targets, and to continue to reduce use further where this is possible. It’s important to recognise that there will be fluctuations in antibiotic use over time, and antibiotics will sometimes be needed in higher amounts where they are the best line of defence to protect animal health and welfare. This means there may be some years when antibiotic use is above the RUMA 2020 target for a good reason, such as a specific disease or industry wide issue, but our long-term goal is to keep antibiotic use below these targets most of the time. We also want to ensure the limited use of antibiotics deemed critically important for human health (CIAs), so we only allow these to be used as a last resort where needed to protect animal welfare. We’ve made great progress reducing the use of CIAs in recent years, including completely eliminating CIA use in many of our supply chains through working closely with our farmers and their vets. It’s been more of a challenge in some sectors than others, and we are leading the way in sectors like beef and lamb where there is a lack of available data across the whole industry. Despite these challenges we’ve made some incredible progress and our data demonstrates what can be achieved through close collaboration with our farmers.

Content for this article is taken from excerpts of the Sainsbury’s Antibiotic Report 2021 with kind permission from Sainsbury’s. The full Sainsbury’s Report can be read here: Antibiotic Report V9.pdf (

The RUMA Conference:

The Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) conference, is being held online on Thursday 18 November 2021. Tickets are available for purchase via this link. The event has a packed programme covering:

  • the positive story of responsible use of medicines in UK farming
  • an introduction to the new RUMA organisation for companion animals and equine and its objectives
  • a look ahead to the UK animal medicines legislation
  • the international context for the responsible use of medicines
  • the story of the UK’s high health and welfare standards in international trade discussions
  • a look ahead to the next challenges for responsible use of animal medicines

There is a fantastic line-up of highly respected industry speakers from the UK and overseas who will be providing insight into a variety of responsible use topics, and there will also be an opportunity to put forward questions throughout the day. Secure your place today via this link .

RUMA is pleased to see European Parliament support to protect animal health and welfare

Cat McLaughlin, Chair of RUMA says: “RUMA is very pleased to see that in a majority vote, members of the European Parliament chose to support continued veterinary access to specific life-saving medicines for both farm and companion animals. 

“There is strong scientific support for animal access to HP CIA’s under the guidelines set out by the EMA, which uses scientific evidence to consider the use of medicines in the context of human and animal health and welfare. It is reassuring to see that the suitability of the EMA criteria has been recognised by the EU Parliament. 

“The more restrictive controls, which had been proposed by the amendment, lacked scientific justification and rigour and had the motion been carried, it would have had a detrimental impact on animal health and welfare in livestock and pets. 

“Whilst the UK is no longer in the EU, any changes to the EU Veterinary Medicines regulations would potentially have a knock-on impact in the UK, not least in the context of future trade agreements.   

“RUMA has always stated that it is important that science-based advice is always followed when considering the use of medicines in animals.” 

UK agriculture is committed to the responsible use of antibiotics. Just as humans and companion animals (pets) sometimes need treatment if they fall ill, this means on occasion treating an animal or in a farming scenario, sometimes a group of animals reared together, with an antibiotic to treat and prevent the spread of a disease and prevent suffering.

RUMA & SfAM conference

In July RUMA and SfAM (Society for Applied Microbiology) teamed up to develop and deliver an online conference entitled, ‘Responsible antibiotic use in animals – change is coming’, designed to share best practice on the responsible use of medicines, as well as infection prevention, control and the latest medical innovations.

The conference webinars featured representatives from across the livestock and companion animal industries and academia and focused on four key areas:

  • Companion animals
  • Aquaculture
  • Pig and poultry
  • Innovations in animal health

The sessions were specifically created to provide support and insight to farmers, agriculture workers, veterinary practices, the animal medicines industry, farm assurance professionals, consumers, animal welfare experts and microbiologists.

The webinars are now available to view for free here: SfAM | Responsible antibiotic use in animals: change is coming

RUMA Secretary General, Chris Lloyd said: “This was the first ever RUMA and SfAM collaboration and it was a huge success. It allowed both organisations to reach beyond our usual audience bases to highlight the UK’s AMR success journey to date and share the facts and insights that some audiences may not have been aware of. The sessions were very well attended and the live Q&A sessions at the end were highly engaging.”

Dr Paul Sainsbury, SfAM Director of Communications and Business Development, said: “This was one of the best conferences I have had the pleasure of being involved in. I think the right balance of information and engagement was achieved and I am looking forward to the next RUMA/SfAM event – hopefully!”

Overview of the sessions:

Companion animals

Companion animals play a huge role in people’s daily lives and naturally that means there is close contact with them in our homes. However, as we learn more we realise they are able to acquire and exchange multidrug-resistant pathogens with humans and may serve as a potential source of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for owners. The RUMA Companion Animal and Equine group has been established to encourage and promote the responsible use of medicines, and in particular antibiotics.


The capability to manage aquaculture health issues has increased tremendously in the last few years. However, the rapid growth and development of the aquaculture sector continues to generate new challenges. The use of medicines by the sector brings many challenges as we seek to treat fish effectively but with minimal impact on the environment.

Pig & Poultry

Antibiotic use was an issue of focus in both these sectors before RUMA and the relevant sector stakeholder organisations established voluntary rules and targets to ensure their effective and responsible use. This voluntary approach is now heralded as a template for responsible use of medicines in livestock.

Innovations in animal health

Equipping farmers and vets with the necessary tools and solutions to keep farm animals in good health ensures more sustainable and efficient farming practices. Innovations such as rapid diagnostics for early detection and new therapeutics for treating infections, will support prompt and targeted animal health management and contribute to preventing disease and when necessary, treating infections.

All sessions can be watched here: SfAM | Responsible antibiotic use in animals: change is coming

RUMA Conference – 18 November 2021 – tickets now available to purchase

The Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), will be hosting its annual conference ‘The responsible use of veterinary medicines – UK and International perspectives’ online on Thursday 18th November, 2021. Tickets are now available to purchase

RUMA has released the full programme of sessions and speakers.

The morning programme is devoted to domestic issues and will focus on the positive story of responsible use of medicines in UK farming and companion animal sectors, which see high standards of food safety, animal health and welfare. The morning will conclude with a look ahead to the UK animal medicines legislation.

The afternoon programme looks at the international context for the responsible use of medicines, concluding with a look at how the efforts of UK farmers to develop high standards of food safety, animal health and welfare, create an expectation as the UK develops new international trade relationships.

RUMA Secretary General, Chris Lloyd, says: “We are delighted to share details of our first ever online conference which has a packed programme covering a wide range of UK and international topics relating to the responsible use of veterinary medicines.

“Hosting the conference online this year means we are able to encourage virtual attendance across both UK and international audiences, which will enable us to reach and engage with even more people to not only share the journey of responsible use so far, but to also drive support and understanding for the journey ahead.”

Tickets can be purchased here

RUMA response to misleading reporting on the use of certain antibiotics in the Pig Sector

Cat McLaughlin, Chair of The Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) says:

“We are hugely disappointed to see that data regarding the use of certain antibiotics in the pig sector has been completely misrepresented in a number of recent sector and consumer news articles. We feel it is important to highlight the inaccuracies to ensure the full facts are properly understood and any misunderstandings rectified.

“RUMA believes that recent reporting with headlines that indicate the UK pig industry has doubled its use of critically important antibiotics vital for humans are misleading, as they focus on the WHO (World Health Organisation) list of antibiotics which are not the guidelines followed by the UK. RUMA aligns to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) guidance on the use of antibiotics, and these are also the same guidelines that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) focuses on (the VMD is an executive agency of The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)). These guidelines are based on the scientific review of the Antimicrobial EMA’s Advice Ad Hoc Expert Group (AMEG) which categorises antibiotics based on the potential consequences to public health of increased antimicrobial resistance when used in animals. These guidelines are designed to protect public health and are reviewed on a regular basis as new science emerges.

“The Aminoglycosides referred to in the articles are not referenced as critically important for human health by the EMA. The small volume of Aminoglycosides used in pigs are used with great care and under strict veterinary protocol and aligned to the EMA guidelines. We would also point out that whilst in mg/kg the volume of Aminoglycosides use has doubled, it is still a relatively low volume of the overall total of antibiotics used in the UK pig sector (approximately 6%).

“2020 Antibiotic usage figures for the pig sector, released by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show a reduction in antibiotic use of 62% between 2015 and 2020 demonstrating the sustained efforts from producers, vets and wider industry to ensure the responsible reduction in the use of antibiotics.

“As well as the above, there are also other important elements of context missing from the reporting as follows:

  • Vets will always prescribe the most appropriate medicines. In some circumstances the most appropriate medicines to combat a disease, to prevent suffering and cure a condition, will be an antibiotic – which is the same approach as is taken in human health
  • HP-CIAs, as defined by the EMA and recognised by the VMD, account for less than 0.05% of all antibiotic use across the pig sector

“UK agriculture is committed to the responsible use of antibiotics. Ensuring animal welfare is a priority alongside achieving appropriate and sustainable reductions is the key. Just as humans and companion animals (pets) sometimes need treatment if they fall ill, depending on the condition, this might need to be an antibiotic. Equally, across UK agriculture any keeper of animals has a responsibility and duty of care to seek treatment for livestock if they are sick; this means on occasion treating an animal or in a farming scenario, sometimes a group of animals reared together, with an antibiotic to treat and prevent the spread of a disease.

“To put the UK’s use of antibiotics into context, UK sales of antibiotics to treat food producing animals have halved since 2014 and now account for less than 30% of the antibiotics used in the UK.

“It is fair to say that antibiotic stewardship is now part of everyday language across UK agriculture, and we are leading the way in achieving significant reductions as can be seen in the results to date. Therefore, the way recent articles have misrepresented the facts to the sector and the public in suggesting pig producers are ‘doubling their use of antibiotics vital for humans’ is wrong and damaging.”

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


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

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

Response to marginal rise in antibiotic sales for food-producing animals in 2019

Following year-on-year reductions in sales of antibiotics for UK farm animals between 2014 to 2018, there was a slight increase from 29.5 mg/kg in 2018 to 31.0 mg/kg in 2019. Explaining this, Cat McLaughlin, chair of RUMA, said:

“We’re very pleased to report that since 2014, sales of antibiotics to treat farm animals have halved, and we have cut use of the most important antibiotics by 75% through a series of unique voluntary initiatives. This has left us with the fifth-lowest sales of antibiotics used in food production in Europe, with only the far Nordic countries using less.

“But let me be clear, judging progress solely on top line figures is dangerous, as it risks demonising any antibiotic use irrespective of how and why it is being used, and this must not happen.

“Antibiotics remain a vital tool for the protection of animal health and welfare, and it is important that any data on antibiotic usage or sales is reviewed in that light. There will always be disease challenges, and when these affect sectors – as we saw with pigs and broilers last year – vets and farmers need to be able to respond with all the appropriate tools available, even antibiotics.

“It should also be noted that while vets were dealing with these difficult situations in 2019, they maintained reductions in prescriptions of highest priority antibiotics, which are generally used at far lower dosage rates than older chemistry. Hence this may have also been a contributing factor in the small increase in sales we saw.

“As the chief executive of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate Professor Peter Borriello has recently emphasised, some of the rapid reductions in antibiotic use we have seen so far in the UK have been achieved by focusing on reducing prophylactic and continual use. Now these have been largely eliminated, further reductions are likely to be harder to achieve and will require a focus on preventing disease and improving farm management.

“We always knew that at some point we would see reductions levelling off, and with more than three quarters of the sector-specific goals set by our vet- and farmer-led Targets Task Force in 2017 now achieved, a ‘reset’ is timely. This has been delivered in a new set of targets released last month, which show our sectors are investing in the combined skills of vets and farmers to maintain momentum around responsible use.”

Last month, the UK pig sector announced that having struggled to achieve its intended reductions in antibiotic use in 2019 due to the swine dysentery outbreak, progress has already been resumed with a fall of 5% in the first half of 2020, from 110 mg/kg to 104 mg/kg.

New antibiotic targets for UK farm animals build on previous success

New targets for the responsible use of antibiotics in UK farm animals over the next four years have been released today, European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November), by a task force of leading vets and farmers.

The new goals, facilitated by RUMA and set out in ‘Targets Task Force Report 2020’, build on the successful implementation of the last targets released in 2017. Overall, these have 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 report, launched alongside the Veterinary Medicine Directorate’s (VMD) release of antibiotic sales data for 2019, covers 10 sectors across aquaculture, pigs, poultry and ruminants. For the first time, calf rearing is examined in isolation in order to focus in on the specific health and welfare interventions that will reduce the need for antibiotic treatments.

With over 75% of the original targets now achieved early or on track to be achieved by the December 2020 deadline, the time is right to ‘reset’ in some sectors with refreshed challenges for the next four years says RUMA chair Cat McLaughlin.

“The UK farming industry has responded extremely well to the targets. Our original aim of lowering overall antibiotic use, and in particular highest-priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), has been categorically achieved in the face of some challenging external conditions,” she says.

“Most sectors are now capturing data on antibiotic use across 90% or more of their sector which has been a key part of the success.

“Even where usage data is lacking but good sales data are available, for example in cattle and sheep, sizable reductions have been achieved especially in sales of HP-CIAs.”

However she says the overall picture in terms of use in the large and diverse cattle and sheep sectors is still lacking, which is why targets for 2024 include the collection of data into the new AHDB Medicine Hub, a UK centralised database for ruminants.

Targets across the ruminant sectors also include a focus on disease prevention and herd and flock health planning, with plans to develop a new network of ‘Farm Vet Champions’. While specific reduction goals have not been set for beef and sheep, there is an aim that dairy and calf rearing will secure reductions in use of 15% and 25% respectively across the national herd by 2024 as data become available.

Other sectors aiming to achieve reductions in antibiotic use as a result of farm-level interventions include the pig sector, with plans to decrease by a further 30% by 2024, and gamebirds with a goal to cut back by 40%.

Among other activities, the pig sector is promoting best-practice guidelines to reduce post-weaning diarrhoea, a common cause of antibiotic use, and will be identifying and supporting reductions among any farmers using higher levels of antibiotics within the sector. Gamebird farmers and vets will be focusing on improved practices, research into disease and farm assurance.

The poultry meat and trout sectors achieved significant reductions in recent years, and join laying hens and salmon in opting to hold their targets at current levels.

Preventative use has been phased out completely in these sectors, meaning many animals receive no antibiotic treatments at all in their lifetime.

However, all four also face new challenges due to changing production systems, disease threat or a warming climate, and will be focusing on managing these effectively through increased vaccine development and availability, surveillance and improved management practices.

Professor Peter Borriello CB, chief executive of the VMD, has welcomed the report, confirming that the UK livestock sectors already have good progress behind them. “The ambition now outlined in this report, alongside the proactive, holistic approaches and focus on behaviour change principles gives me every confidence that they will once again succeed,” he says.

“We look forward to working with the sectors as we continue on this endeavour, which will ultimately be of benefit to the reputation of the UK livestock sectors as well as helping to protect human and animal health.”

The VMD’s Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS 2019) report, also released today, shows that UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have halved since 2014 (when sales were recorded at 62 mg/kg).

However, there was a slight increase from 29.5 mg/kg in 2018 to 31.0 mg/kg in 2019 [2], predominantly due to disease challenges from exceptionally poor weather and novel pathogens.

The ultimate objective of improved stewardship is reduced levels of antibiotic resistance, and UK-VARSS 2019 also shows resistance largely stabilising or reducing. In an EU report published earlier in 2020, the UK reported some of the best results in reducing incidence of antibiotic resistance among pathogens from farm animal and animal products [3].

See the new targets at

[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).

[2] Veterinary Medicines Directorate (2020). Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2019

[3] European Food Safety Authority (2020). The European Union Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food in 2017/2018

New medicine initiative for pets and horses draws on farm livestock learnings

A new cross-sectoral collaboration has been announced to promote the responsible use of medicines in pets and horses.

Inspired by the success of the UK farm animal sector in reducing antibiotic use over the past five years, the RUMA Companion Animal and Equine Group will draw on those learnings to help protect important medicines for future human and animal use.

Steve Howard, head of clinical services at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals and secretary general of the new group, explains that the initiative will initially focus on encouraging innovative and proactive efforts to promote responsible antibiotic use.

“RUMA has spearheaded successful efforts to steward antibiotic use in farmed animals over the past five years, and we would like to see whether its principles can augment the considerable progress that’s already been made in the companion animal and equine sectors,” says Mr Howard.

“The most notable of RUMA’s initiatives is the Targets Task Force, which has seen leading vets and farmers from each species working together with industry groups to develop meaningful goals for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use.

“Through establishing such proactive approaches towards antibiotic stewardship in companion animals and equines, we hope to optimise their health and welfare – as well as that of humans and the environment,” he says.

Although total antibiotic sales are significantly lower for companion animals compared with the farming sector, even relatively low use can result in resistance to key medicines if good stewardship principles are not applied. This in turn can create risk to both animals and their owners through their close interactions.

The collaboration will cover use of medicines in dogs, cats, rabbits, small mammals, exotic animals kept as pets, and equids. The aim is for the UK to lead the way in these sectors through evidence-based and measurable activities that will promote and enhance stewardship.

“As we’ve learned from the farm livestock industry, the engagement of stakeholders from across all companion animal and equine sectors, including partnerships with veterinary organisations and regulators will again be key to success,” says Mr Howard.

“We would like to thank the wide range of sector stakeholders who have engaged with us to date to help develop and shape this new initiative.”

Bringing previous experience from RUMA to the new group, Gwyn Jones, appointed chair, says a fundamental aim will be establishing a set of strategic sector-specific goals.

“As a collaborative group we need to establish evidence-based protocols for reducing, replacing or refining antibiotic use in companion animals, to further help preserve and prolong the use of these vital tools for human and animal health,” says Mr  Jones.

“Efforts will be focused towards identifiable goals so that progress can be monitored and demonstrated. But we will also promote practical, practice-level resources, guidance and measures aimed at driving positive behaviour changes and protecting patients and practitioners alike.”

The group aims to provide evidence of progress to report against the UK Government’s five-year national action plan for containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance, he adds. “Like the farmed animal sectors, this is a voluntary initiative, but one done with the best interests of both animals and humans at its core.”


site powered by penguins