Rise in vaccine use on farms means less need for antibiotics

Farming | Published:

Sales of antibiotics for farm animals has fallen by more than half in the past five years, which has made the UK among the lowest users in Europe.

Will Jackson is AHDB Beef & Lamb sector strategy director.

Vaccination of the UK’s calves and sheep has risen to one of the highest levels in seven years.

The rise in vaccination use is being attributed to a better understanding among farmers of the role good welfare and husbandry plays in helping reduce the risk of disease spread, and therefore the need for antibiotic treatments.

The use of highest-priority Critically Important Antibiotics on farms has fallen by more than two-thirds between 2014 and 2018. Antibiotic use was 21mg/kg in the small sample of beef herds and 17mg/kg in dairy herds in 2018.

Vaccines play an important role in helping farmers and vets reduce the need to use antibiotics and thereby reduce the risk of bacteria developing antimicrobial resistance.

In the UK, more than 40 vaccines are authorised for use to control or prevent disease in cattle and around 20 products are authorised for use in sheep. Appropriate use of vaccines should be part of the herd or flock health plan on all farms, under the supervision of a vet.

AHDB has just published a report, showing almost 10 million doses of vaccine were sold for use in cattle in 2018. The largest rise has been in vaccines to protect against pneumonia in calves, a condition vets would otherwise have to treat with antibiotics.

One in five breeding cows are now vaccinated to increase the protective antibodies against calf scour passed to their calves as they drink their mother’s colostrum shortly after birth.

The UK sheep sector also performed well in 2018, seeing the highest uptake of vaccines in over six years.

It is essential that the agricultural industry continues to play its part in reducing worldwide antibiotic usage. Vaccination is an effective method of preventing infectious diseases.

Will Jackson is AHDB Beef & Lamb sector strategy director.

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