The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics report also hit out at supermarkets for failing to take antibiotic use ‘seriously’.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) latest report, ‘Real farming solutions to antibiotic use: What farmers and supermarkets must do’ claimed less intensive farming systems generally had much lower levels of antibiotic use and factors which contributed to high disease varied by species.
It favoured organic and some high-quality indoor systems.
Cóilín Nunan, scientific adviser to the Alliance, said: “Our report shows that intensive livestock farmers have much to learn from the practices of more extensive farming systems, which often have minimal antibiotic use.
“Moving to later weaning of piglets, using slower-growing chickens, lowering stocking densities of animals kept indoors and keeping cattle on pasture are all essential and achievable measures which can lower antibiotic use.”
Whilst the paper remained firmly against what it called ‘controversial’ talks by British government and industry leaders of no link between farming systems and antibiotic use, the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance was clear antibiotic use was not a factor of scale or system of farming ‘despite efforts to present it as such’.
RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones said: “Quoted selective evidence does not change this, nor the need for British food and farming to remain competitive, safe and high quality.
“Treating and preventing disease is also complex; this is why bans can be ineffective with unintended consequences for animal welfare.”
The ASOA report also called on supermarkets to follow in the footsteps of The Co-op, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose which had each introduced bans on their suppliers using antibiotics for routine disease prevention.
It said retailers needed to start taking antibiotic resistance more seriously.
But Mr Jones added: “There is lots more to do – not least improve data collection and sharing, and expand the collaborative, pre-competitive work of the retailers and wider supply chain.
“But the fundamental change in focus we are seeing among vets and farmers is down to support and leadership, not sanctions.”