An industry standard for measuring and monitoring antibiotic use on beef farms has been agreed following extensive industry consultation.
The new recommendations complement those previously agreed for monitoring antibiotic use on dairy and sheep farms.
The recommendations developed by the Cattle Health and Welfare Group’s (CHAWG) antimicrobial usage (AMU) subgroup are based on research work undertaken by the University of Bristol and extensive industry consultation.
The measures will help beef farmers understand where they are in relation to the antibiotic use targets set by representatives of the beef sector within RUMA’s Targets Task Force in 2017, and to continue delivering reductions and refinements in use once new post-2020 targets are announced at the end of the year.
The core measure a beef farm is advised to use is the total weight of antibiotics used in a year (in milligrams) relative to the average weight of the cattle population at risk of treatment on the farm during the year (in kilograms). This is similar to the core mg/kg measures already in use by the dairy and sheep sectors.
Tim Brigstocke, chairman of CHAWG AMU, says: “Measuring and comparing antibiotic use in beef herds is not straightforward, as it needs to take account of the numbers and types of cattle on a farm, which can change considerably during a year.
“We have aimed to strike a sensible balance between accuracy and pragmatism and produce a metric that will work for the majority of farms, recognising that the opportunity to link to national databases in the future will make providing data relating to the number and types of cattle much easier for farmers.”
Derek Armstrong, veterinary lead at AHDB, says: “We want to encourage vets and others in the supply chain to use these standard metrics, where possible, to ensure that a common language is being used.
“This will help farmers monitor antibiotic use on their farm over time and see how it relates to similar farms across the industry. It will also inform vets and farmers when they are working together on developing health plans and encourage farmers with specific health challenges and high antibiotic use to identify where to focus in order to improve their management practices.”
The overall mg/kg measure should be reported alongside a separate figure for the highest priority critically important antibiotics, which aligns well with recommendations from the other ruminant sectors. Additional measures have also been recommended where more detailed farm level antibiotic use records are available. These are the percentage of animals treated and treatment days per animal. These additional metrics can also be used for other veterinary medicines.
The CHAWG Antimicrobial Use Group has published a core set of standard metrics for benchmarking antibiotic use on UK dairy farms following consultation with the wider dairy industry.
Core metric one = mg/Population Correction Unit (PCU):
• mg refers to the amount of antibiotic active ingredient.
• PCU refers to the weight of animal at risk on the dairy farm, based on the average weight at time of treatment. This is calculated by multiplying the average number of adult dairy cows by 425kg (this is the weight used by ESVAC in the PCU figure used for national monitoring of antibiotic sales data.
Core metric two = Average number of antibiotic courses per dairy cow for dry cow therapy.
• This is calculated by dividing the number of dry cow antibiotic tubes sold by 4 (the assumed number of tubes used per course) and then dividing this by the average number of adult dairy cows.
Core metric three = Average number of antibiotic courses per dairy cow for lactating cow therapy.
• This is calculated by dividing the number of lactating cow antibiotic tubes sold by 3 (the assumed number of tubes used per course) and then dividing this by the average number of adult dairy cows.
The Sheep Antibiotic Guardian Group, a sub group of the Sheep Health and Welfare Group, consulted with sheep industry stakeholders and academics to develop a core set of standard metrics for benchmarking antibiotic use on UK sheep farms.
1. Core Sheep Metric – Total mass of antibiotic per unit of sheep weight (mg/kg)
2. Additional Sheep Metric – Antibiotics given to lambs at less than a week old