New farm animal antibiotics use targets set for 2024

New targets for antibiotics use in agriculture have been set by a group of farmers and vets alongside the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (Ruma) Alliance, and an online medicine database for ruminants has been announced.

The targets, to be achieved from 2021-2024, follow on from the good progress made from 2017-2020, with more than 75% of targets already achieved or on track to be met by the end of December.

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

Hotspot areas for antibiotics use

  • Sheep lameness and lamb survivability
  • Dairy lameness and mastitis
  • Beef respiratory disease
  • Weaner management and in-feed medication

See also: Sales of ‘highest priority’ farm antibiotics down

2021-2024 targets

New antibiotics use goals have been set for the dairy, calf-rearing and pig sectors (see “Targets snapshot” below). However, the targets have remained largely broader this time for the beef and sheep industries due to a lack of data available on current use.

A key element in the progress of these sectors will be the new AHDB Medicine Hub, which is due to go live in January 2021, said Ruma. The online database for medicine use in ruminants will allow centralisation of data, either entered directly or via a third party such as a vet. The anonymised information will be used for national benchmarking and reporting.

Initially, use of the Medicine Hub will be voluntary. However, the report discusses incentivising uptake by making it a requirement of assurance schemes and a prerequisite for access to government grants.

The report states: “Monitoring antibiotics use in individual sectors is an important part of the picture. Many antibiotics products are licensed to be sold to multiple species, so sales data only tell part of the story. To truly understand which products are being used to treat which animals at farm level, and what opportunities exist to use products more responsibly, collecting antibiotics use data is critical.”

One of the new targets is that medicine best practice training becomes a requirement in beef and lamb farm assurance schemes from October 2021. It is already an aspect of Red Tractor in the dairy sector, so the aim is to reduce training non-compliances.

Targets snapshot

This table shows a selection of the targets for various sectors. The full report is available on the Ruma website. 

  Dairy Calf-rearing Beef Sheep Pigs
Antibiotics use 15% mg/kg fall by 2024; baseline 2020-21 • 25% mg/kg fall by 2024; baseline 2020-21
• 7.5 fewer treated/ per 100 calves by 2024; baseline 2020-21
30% reduction in total use by 2024, baseline 2020
Antibiotics sales • Lactating cow tubes – annual reduction in three-year rolling average; baseline of 0.69 DCDVet
• Dry cow tubes – annual reduction in three-year rolling average; baseline of 0.59 DCDVet
Oral antibiotics for lambs – annual reduction of 10% in doses/year; baseline 7.45m
HP CIA sales/use Reduction in HP CIA sales of cattle injectables by 2024; baseline 0.26mg/kg HP CIA use equal to or lower than 2019 baselines
Data capture Data from 95% of UK dairy herds captured by 2024 Data from 50% of UK calf-rearing units captured by 2024 Data from 8,000 UK beef herds (10% of total) captured by 2024 Data from 8,000 UK sheep flocks (10% of total) captured by 2024 Maintain/increase on-time submission of data to the electronic medicine book (eMB) annually
Health planning • 2,800 farm vet champions (FVCs) in 900 veterinary practices across the UK by 2024; if total numbers change, the target would be 50% of farm vets at 50% of farm vet practices
• The concept is to recruit, train and encourage a UK-wide network of FVCs to set, meet and record both personal and practice-level specific medicine prescribing goals
• Identify/launch best-practice weaner management before 2022
• Ensure government’s post-Brexit plans support switch from in-feed medication to in-water
Source: Ruma TTF 2020 report