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Minimising Antibiotic Use

Minimising Antibiotic Use

Paul Redmore kindly opened up Neston Park Farm for the event. Although held in the cold old dairy the discussions throughout the day were very informative. We started the day with an overview of the farm by Paul and his vet Steve Shiles from Hale vet group. In spite of doubling the herd in three years, Paul and Steve have managed to reduce mastitis cases and halve the cell count on the Jersey herd.

Gwen Rees from the University of Bristol was next up; Gwen showed us the difficulties in trying to benchmark antibiotic use on farms as there is currently no common way of measuring amounts used. Typical measurements include:  cases/ 100 cows, number of tubes used, mg/litre of milk, or doses/kg. All these methods are equally effective, but we can’t benchmark as an industry unless we all use the same measurements.  In all farming industries, the UK sits about half way in the world scale of antibiotic use, so there is room for improvement. Although the dairy sector is a relatively low contributing factor to this figure, we still need to do our bit to help reduce antibiotic usage.

Next, Peter Plate from Endell Veterinary Group showed us how to minimise antimicrobial usage on farm. The main issue on farm is trying to stay away from antibiotics that are causing microbial resistance in human medicine (these are your cephalosporin’s and fluoroquinolones). These drugs, although cheap to buy and very good at fighting infections, are the biggest risk to microbial resistance in humans. Peter explained that other penicillin is just as effective without the risk of human resistance. Knowing which strain you are dealing with and the best way to treat it, if any, is paramount. There are test kits available that allow farmers to culture mastitis bacteria over 24 hours to see if it is a gram+ or gram– bacteria. This test is very easy to do and will tell you to either treat a gram+ case with antibiotics or leave the gram– case untreated. This test has helped the USA to reduce antibiotic use by 50%, something we all need to play a part in doing in the UK.

What should we be doing as farmers?

  • Measure antibiotic usage- either benchmark against yourself or other farms. You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it!
  • Look to improve year on year- sit down with your vet and set targets.
  • Strive to learn from other farmers,vets and research projects.
  • Use selective dry cow therapy.
  • If you have to treat then make sure you use the right drug.

These measures will reduce antimicrobial use on farms and if done correctly will not affect animal welfare. Working with our vets and reducing antibiotic usage is vital for both human/animal health and the image of farming; we as farmers should always think before we use antibiotics.

Many thanks to Paul and all the speakers, OMSCO and Liz Bowles (Head of Farming for the Soil Association) for putting on a very informative day- looking forward to the next one!

Take part in a field lab 

Innovative Farmers are currently running a field lab on the rapid typing kit which Luke describes. For more information on the trial visit the Innovative Farmers website where you can sign up for free regular updates, or join to take part in a field lab.

Cows in Neston Farm