Changes made to the Red Tractor assurance scheme standards for cattle and sheep last summer are driving further significant reductions in use of highest-priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) across the UK.
This is according to a new study released at the British Cattle Veterinary Association congress recently.
Sales of fluoroquinolones and third and fourth generation cephalosporins for UK farm livestock are already low, having fallen 57 per cent and 38 per cent respectively between 2013 and 2017.
But analysis of veterinary records from 2,764 beef, sheep and dairy farms, carried out by Westpoint vet Tim Potter in association with Kingshay, found that following the introduction of the new standards, use of HP-CIAs on these farms fell by 92 per cent.
Substituting HP-CIAs, which often require small amounts of active ingredient per treatment, with lower priority antibiotics requiring larger active ingredient dose rates, can push up overall antibiotic use.
However, total sales of antibiotics to these farms also fell by 22 per cent throughout the same period.
Red Tractor introduced the new requirements on antibiotic use to their ruminant standards in June 2018.
These include instructions that HP-CIAs are used only as a last resort under vet direction guided by sensitivity or diagnostic testing.
Farms are also now required to collate their annual medicine usage and discuss use of HP-CIAs with their vet.
Mr Potter says: “This study shows the implementation of a formal hurdle to use of these more important antibiotics has driven behaviour change at farm level, by requiring the vet and farmer to have a conversation about their medicine regime.
“The result appears to be reductions in HP-CIAs, helped by changes in management practices.”