Dr Tim Potter from Westpoint Farm Vets is coming the end of a farmer meeting series supported by MSD Animal Health, focusing on the responsible use of medicines.
He says: “We hope to have engaged with about 400 farmers to highlight the best practices for managing disease in youngstock. But the events have certainly highlighted some common misconceptions.”
“Good antimicrobial stewardship means ensuring the right antibiotic treatment is given at the right time and in the right way at the correct dose. The approach should always be as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Reducing usage by under-dosing, not completing courses or holding off treatment, works against what we are trying to achieve.
“If you hold off treating sick animals you make a disease harder to treat and invariably end up needing more antibiotic treatments to cure the animal, giving the disease a chance to spread to other livestock.”
The key message is to focus on disease prevention first – never rely on antibiotics as ‘go-to’ management practice.
“Prevention is the name of the game,” Dr Potter says. “This means implementing sound livestock husbandry practices, such as good hygiene and colostrum feeding protocols, effective biosecurity and environmental management and talking to your vet about the use of vaccines.
“Vaccines are well researched and safe, and when stored and used according to manufacturer guidelines, they play an important role in making livestock more resilient to infection by various disease organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.
“Vaccination increases the disease resistance of individual animals so they become less likely to become ill when presented by an infection challenge. Vaccination can also ‘damp down’ disease problems and help reduce the spread of infection in a population of animals. When used properly they are a highly effective investment in disease prevention and, unlike antibiotics, certainly do not present any potential resistance issues which the industry needs to worry about.”