RUMA guidelines for the responsible use of vaccines by sheep farmers have been designed to give easy-to-read guiding principles that can be used by sheep producers in the management of their flocks.
The responsible use of medicines has always been a fundamental principle of good livestock keeping and is given further impetus by the encouragement of farm health planning under the Great Britain Animal Health and Welfare Strategy (AHWS). Farm health planning represents one of the direct ways in which the livestock sector, specifically individual producers, can be persuaded of the cost benefits of adopting on-farm health strategies. Best practice in the use of veterinary medicines must be an integral part of effective health planning, and these RUMA guidelines aim to define that best practice.
The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is a growing coalition of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process. It has been set up to review and provide guidance on the use of medicines in all livestock. As part of this work RUMA has established practical strategies to promote the correct use of vaccines in the sheep industry.
Vaccines have, from the 1930s, made a major contribution to improving sheep health, welfare and productivity. They are vital components in preventing a wide variety of diseases.
To communicate these strategies effectively to the industry RUMA has produced a comprehensive set of guidelines for the responsible use of vaccines in sheep and other livestock production. These give advice on all aspects from the initial risk assessment to best practice for their use. It also provides clear strategies for the implementation of effective vaccination programmes for farmers and veterinary surgeons to make best use of these valuable relatively inexpensive products.
When animals are exposed to infections and survive then they will develop an immunity and so they are usually completely, or partially, immune or resistance to other attacks by the same infection. The animal when first infected may become ill and need treatment. Vaccination mimics infection and so it provides immunity without the animals succumbing to the disease. Thus it becomes resistant to the disease before it becomes infected and so, if later on the animal is exposed to disease, it will usually not show any signs, or only minor signs, of illness. This will result in animals being healthier and also requiring less treatments. This is beneficial to the animal, the farmer and the consumer. All animals will be immune to some diseases and so there is no risk from consuming food from healthy animals which have previously been vaccinated.
This booklet summarises the responsibilities that sheep farmers have as they use vaccines to safeguard the health, welfare and productivity of their flock.
All farmers have a responsibility to safeguard the health and welfare of the animals under their control. There are occasions where this is a joint responsibility with their veterinary surgeon, such as in the discharge of correct and appropriate vaccination programmes. Farmers and stockkeepers can play a major role in ensuring that these responsibilities are properly discharged and that medicines are responsibly used by observing the guidelines published here. Similar guidelines form part of all farm assurance schemes.
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