In 2019 work began on the next phase of targets by the Targets Task Force 2 (TTF2) building on the lessons learned from phase 1. The first three years of the TTF saw technical developments, the capture of data and microbiological research which has changed the understanding of antibiotic use and resistance. These findings informed new targets launched November 2020 and which run from 2021 to 2024.
The second phase looks to further enhance and strengthen the response of Agriculture to the AMR challenge. There has been a general shift of focus from national numerical targets to ‘on-farm’ health and welfare, data and engagement targets, especially in ruminants. This ensures metrics are more relevant to individual farms and farmers. Where targets exist, they now act as more of a guide and indicator to progress. Feedback showed that national targets are understood, but relaying messages and insight using individual farm data is also important. Industry level data and figures are still essential to illustrate the general direction and provide focus for sector activities, but farm level data is vital and gives farmers the autonomy to set their own goals and targets to achieve realistic and sustainable levels of responsible use.
The targets are not about driving towards zero antibiotic use. It is important to acknowledge that antibiotics are there 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 create issues of animal welfare. For now, reductions continue across most sectors but in others, usage is beginning to level out or even bounce back a small amount where sustainable use has been achieved. Seasonal weather or disease challenges also result in targeted increased use of medicines.
The new TTF 2 sector targets fall into three groups in terms of focus:
– Ruminant sectors of beef, dairy, calves and sheep, for which usage remains largely unknown or unproven due to unavailability of data. The focus in these sectors going forward is on understanding and benchmarking use on-farm; engagement between farmer and vet; development of health plans
– Pigs and gamebirds are still on their downward trajectory and are making strong progress on reducing use. The new targets plan to reduce use by a further 30% and 40% respectively
– Those which have already achieved low levels of use, and whose target is to maintain them in the face of biosecurity or disease control challenges amid shifting external environmental and market forces. This group includes Salmon, Trout, Laying hens and Poultry meat sectors
What has been achieved to date has been incredible and has been done so completely voluntarily without regulation – testament to the commitment right across the British livestock industry in delivering the highest standards of food safety, animal health and animal welfare.
The key learnings from the first set of targets, most notably the importance of data which remains a critical component moving forwards, have helped shape the creation of the second set of targets. Learnings will continue to be applied moving forwards to ensure informed, evidence-based decision-making is applied across all aspects of TTF activity.
Of particular note moving forwards, is acknowledgement that achieving zero use of antibiotics is neither possible nor appropriate across any sector, so there will come a tipping point where the journey of reduction changes and becomes focused on maintaining responsible levels of use rather than pushing antibiotic use so low that the repercussions would actually be detrimental.
Gwyn Jones – Past Chair, James Russell – BVA, Fraser Broadfoot – VMD, Grace O’Gorman – NOAH, Georgina McDowell – Red Tractor, Mandy Nevel – AHDB
Catherine McLaughlin – Chair, Chris Lloyd – Secretary General, Dawn Howard – Deputy Chair, Tim Brigstocke – RUMA Treasurer, Mary Bawn – Communications Manager
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