The UK’s farming sector has achieved many of its targets in the reduction of antibiotics use, and aquaculture is one of the success stories. That’s the message from the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), which has reset some of its targets upwards.
In an announcement marking European Antibiotic Awareness Day, RUMA published new targets built on the successful implementation of the last targets released in 2017. Overall, these have helped to halve sales of antibiotics to treat UK farm animals and achieve the fifth-lowest usage in Europe. Only Nordic countries achieved lower usage.
The new targets include ruminant species such as cattle and sheep, where data on antibiotics use is still not sufficiently documented, but fish farming – salmon and trout – has been judged by RUMA to meet its targets and these will be maintained, not changed.
Aquaculture falls into a category defined as “Those which have already achieved low levels of use, and whose target is to maintain them in the face of biosecurity or disease control challenges amid shifting external environmental and market forces.”
Existing targets for fish include maintaining antibiotic use at 5mg/kg (salmon) and 20mg/kg (trout), ensuring that “high priority” antibiotics are not used routinely and ensuring that vaccines are used where necessary to protect fish in seawater.
RUMA chair Cat McLaughlin said: ““The UK farming industry has responded extremely well to the targets. Our original aim of lowering overall antibiotic use, and in particular highest-priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), has been categorically achieved in the face of some challenging external conditions,” she says.
“Most sectors are now capturing data on antibiotic use across 90% or more of their sector which has been a key part of the success.
“Even where usage data is lacking but good sales data are available, for example in cattle and sheep, sizable reductions have been achieved especially in sales of HP-CIAs.”
The poultry meat and trout sectors achieved significant reductions in recent years, and join laying hens and salmon in opting to hold their targets at current levels.