Antibiotic target work focused on education

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

RUMA has collated work done by various industries on antibiotic usage
RUMA has collated work done by various industries on antibiotic usage
Industry work to reduce the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture is being focused on education.

In a Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) report, work done over the past six months by UK farming sectors to reduce antibiotic usage has been outlined.

The targets were set in October alongside the Targets Task Force and set out goals for each sector to hit by 2020.

RUMA’s secretary general Chris Lloyd said a comprehensive review of progress would be due in November. “In the meantime this four-page summary provides a flavour of some of the activities being implemented to build on the successful reduction of 27% in overall farm antibiotic sales 2014-2016.”

He stressed that each sector was very different in terms of when they were first able to engage with the issue, disease pressure, number of producers and structure.

“This is why some have already made significant changes and are ‘refining’ how and when antibiotics are used, while others are working on bigger issues of data, communication and usage ‘hotspots’,”​ he said. “But whatever the stage, all remain fully engaged on driving improvement and best practice to ensure the targets can be achieved by 2020.”

Red meat and dairy

The sheep meat sector data is currently being analysed, but there is a consortium of sheep veterinary communicating messages on the issue to the industry.

On the pig side, a 28% reduction in antibiotic use for 2017, was recorded, reaching 131mg/PCU; this meant it had now halved its use in two years and was on track to reach 99mg/PCU by 2020. Colistin use was also recorded at 0.01mg/PCU for 2017, a hundredth of the EU recommended maximum.

In the beef sector, Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Beef is running a variety of schemes to provide information on the issue. They include a new cattle version of the e-Medicine Book, webinars on responsible usage and online calculators for dairy vets and farmers to quantify their usage.


According to the British Poultry Council, the sector has reduced total use of antibiotics by 82% over the past six years, despite a 10% increase in production. The industry has focused on stopping prophylactic and colistin use, as well as reducing fluoroquinolone use by 91%.

In the laying hens sector, colistin has been banned and fluoroquinolones can only be used in exceptional situations. Gamebird sector usage dropped by 36% in 2017, well beating the 25% reduction target.

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