Nick Barradale BVSc MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services
Further to Richard Turner’s article in the January Newsletter (Antibiotic reduction – is it as easy as ABC?) referencing Lord O’Neill’s recent reviews, I thought I would take the opportunity to apply the situation to current and future dairying.
Alarming quotes such as ’O’Neill’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance says the global financial cost of no action would be the loss of ten million lives a year by 2050 and £69tn a year.’’ With no action we will be thrown back to the dark ages, with even simple surgeries being complicated from life threatening infections due to limited antibiotic options.
It is true that antimicrobial overuse is not all, even hardly, down to agriculture and even less so western agriculture. Consumption of antimicrobials by animals to produce meat in emerging economies is set to double between 2010 and 2030. Then why should we change our way and what good is it for us to develop mbetter practice?
As participants of a developed market, we have a duty to pave the way to efficient and healthy welfare-friendly production. Reductions in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) locally will
limit problems locally but crucially, with reduced antibiotic usage comes vastly increased health, production and profitability. This has been proven by countries such as Denmark and The
Netherlands in the last ten years and more recently the broiler sectors in the States and UK.
Danish pork production climbed 42% between 1992 and 2008, despite regulations restricting growth promoter antibiotics tightening from 1995-2000. There was a 51% fall in antibiotic
usage on mg/Kg meat produced, with initial increased outbreaks of disease but then farms consolidated and boomed. Dutch experience found that simple initial antibiotic bans created issues from 1999- 2009. However, government intervention and targeted antibiotic reduction in 2009 led to a 56% reduction in total antibiotic usage by 2012 without reduction in production or profi t.
This was managed through a dosage recording system and transparency in prescriptions, leading to better focus on environment and management.
Mass reductions in antibiotic usage in monogastric animals such as pigs and poultry are well documented and perhaps easier than in cattle populations. However, veal and beef chains in the cattle sector will be essential starting points to gain easy wins. Udder health usage on dairy units is also relevant, with excessive ‘prophylactic’ dry cow therapies being used, as well as acceptance of mastitis incidences as normal. Further areas to target in cattle systems would be antibiotic usage for foot health.
As discussed widely in the press, antibiotic reduction is required and on the agenda for government, doctors, vets, processors and retailers alike. Recent government response to reviews has quoted a reduction in GP antibiotic prescription of 7.9% in the last year but states inappropriate prescribing will fall by 50% by 2020. This paper also quotes that the UK broiler
sector has slashed antibiotic usage by 44% over 2012-2015. Lastly, DEFRA has committed to reducing usage in UK livestock and fi sh farmed for food from 62 to 50mg/Kg, a 20% target by 2018.
How does antibiotic reduction policy apply to you as the producer and how can you engage early? The best start is to establish your disease rates and usage. Our industry is behind other
countries such as The Netherlands who have national prescription databases but you can start by identifying where your business uses antibiotics and approach the root causes.
What antibiotics are you using? To the producer, an antibiotic is an antibiotic but to the industry, they are of varying degrees of importance and relevance to human medicine. 31 of the 41
registered antibiotics in veterinary medicine are considered important in human health. Below is a guide to antibiotic groups and importance. Here in the UK, there are currently limited restrictions as to which antibiotics you can use and none on what we can prescribe. There soon will be and although not an exhaustive or actual official policy list, the table above gives a
guide as to antibiotic ‘grading’. The Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Authority (SDa) have coordinated a strategy into first, second and third choice antibiotics, in line with table 1.
They closely monitor all prescriptions and rank users and prescribers to encourage antibiotic responsible use and reduction.
What can you do with this information? It is with good reason that these restrictions will evolve and less restricted antibiotics are perfectly adequate, if used correctly. Antibiotic efficacy is reduced more often due to inappropriate selection or dosing rather than ‘strength’. We will have to get better at choosing the right tool for the job or better still, making sure our policy and management remove all need for such tools.
St David’s Poultry Team have pioneered Applied Bacterial Control (ABC). Molecare Farm Vets are working with them to develop strategies across species, and health strands within each. Data
and recording are key in the development of focusing development and improvement. We are putting in place recording systems to better analyse antibiotic usage. We have successfully engaged businesses in other sectors and are very happy to visit your farm to tailor an ABC plan for your herd.
ABC, combined with effective modern technology that improves efficiency, will help in the upcoming battle to reduce antibiotic dependency.