Antibiotic use in UK ruminant sector remains low – report

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Dairy sheep milk Beef ruminants Meat United kingdom Antibiotics

Preliminary data from across dairy, beef and sheep sectors supports the view that UK dairy and beef use very low levels of antibiotics – but more input from the industry is needed.

This conclusion was drawn from the first dataset of antibiotic use collated from Medicine Hub, a resource developed by AHDB to help British dairy, beef and sheep producers monitor and compare medicine use.

A total of 7,500 enterprises logged their antibiotic use into Medicine Hub, among whom 2,467 dairy operations with a mean usage of 16.6mg/PCU, or 28% of adult dairy cows in the UK. The figure for the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIA) – typically antimicrobials used to treat pathogens that cause foodborne disease or are the only available therapeutic – was even lower, at 0.02mg/PCU.

Among the 2,968 beef producers that had logged their usage, mean usage was 4.8mg/kg and 0.01mh/kg for HP-CIAs. From among the 2,160 sheep enterprises submitted to the database, the mean antibiotic usage was 7.8mg/kg and 0.0003mg/kg for HP-CIAs.

But the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture Targets task force (known as RUMA) said that the two metrics used to measure usage in dairy and beef and sheep respectively should not be used to compare usage between the different sectors and are published for national trend monitoring only.

RUMA has also warned that the 2022 dataset is not large enough for the results to be considered representative of the wider ruminant industry.

“These are very early days in the drive to capture a comprehensive picture of antibiotic use across the beef, dairy and sheep sectors,” said RUMA in the report.

“The data provided for the 2022 calendar year significantly exceeded the targets set by the Targets Task Force. Work continues to engage stakeholders all along the supply chain to encourage even more use of Medicine Hub for new and existing data sets, in order to achieve the ambitious targets set for Medicine Hub for the years ahead.”

RUMA’s aim is to capture data from 95% of UK dairy herds and 50% from calf rearing units by 2024.

Chris Gooderham, AHDB Livestock Science and Environment Director, commented: “We exceeded the targets set by the RUMA Target Task Force for the number of datasets uploaded to the Hub for 2022. With targets for gathering 2023 data doubling next year, work continues to engage stakeholders along the supply chain to encourage even greater use of Medicine Hub for new and existing data sets.

“The more data we gather, the more representative of each sector it will be. With more data uploaded, we can provide better evidence of the sector’s responsible use of antibiotics and take an active part in shaping usage targets and future plans for stewardship.”

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