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Antibiotic Reduction – Have you been a part of the success story?

Andy Adler BVM&S MBA PGCert Vet Ed MRCVS

In November RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) released their report on antibiotic usage and reported that sales of antibiotics (ABs) had halved since 2014 for farm animals, with the UK now the fifth lowest user of antibiotics on farm behind the Nordic countries.

By the end of 2020, the UK were on track to reach 75% of the targets set in 2017 which is a real credit to the UK agricultural industry. As a result of these achievements, new targets are due to be set this year to help the industry focus and maintain the momentum it has gathered with regards to reducing the use of ABs. It is expected that by 2024 Dairy farms will decrease antibiotic usage by another 15% and calf rearing by 25% which as veterinary surgeons, we would view as achievable with the guidance of a robust antibiotic reduction plan for individual farms.

The success that we have seen with the gradual reduction of antibiotic usage has come as a result of a multi-factorial approach including: improved management of genetics, environment and nutrition on farm, as well as additional investment in housing and an improved knowledge and education for farmers around antibiotic best practice. In the dairy sector, additional training and support on the appropriate use of antibiotics has been driven by the Milksure initiative, which has been well supported and can be credited for contributing to the improvements that the dairy industry has seen.

In addition to supporting and encouraging farmers through improvements in farm management, husbandry and nutrition, Molecare have been trialing the use of feed and nutritional supplements as a part of preventative healthcare protocols. Recently we have been working in collaboration with AHV (Animal Health Vision) ) this Dutch company, founded in 2014 by a Dutch team of veterinarians and microbiologists, has a vision to work in a proactive, sustainable way with dairy farms and the supply chain. We have introduced their supplementary products to clients to aid the reduction of ABs. AHV pride themselves on delivering innovative solutions and have focused their work on the powers of Quorum Sensing inhibitors and bacterial communication. In short, Quorum Sensing is the ability of bacteria to sense and ‘communicate’ with other bacteria in the vicinity. Quorum Sensing inhibitors work by preventing this communication between bacteria allowing the immune system to work to protect the health of the animal.

We started to introduce these feed supplements to cows that have either high somatic cell counts or clots in their milk in June last year. We have been pleased with the products ability to support cows with mastitis. In speaking with clients what has been made apparent is that as far fewer cows have milk to reject, concerns about contamination of the bulk tank have decreased, resulting in a reduction in milking time and leading to more time spent looking after the cows.

However, it is important to note that we do not expect these products to work on all farms. Antibiotics will inevitably continue to have their place in acute clinical scenarios and milk sampling and pathogen diagnosis are important practices to enable accurate diagnosis.

In addition to udder health feed supplements, we are also beginning to trial some calf products that help prevent calves from developing scours and respiratory infections which are easy to use and for which the early results are promising.

For more information on any of the above, and to discuss the reduction of antibiotics on your farm, please email us at [email protected]

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