Dairy sector alive to risks of antibiotic resistance

Dairy farmers are keen to cut down their use of antibiotics. Picture: John Devlin
Dairy farmers are keen to cut down their use of antibiotics. Picture: John Devlin
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Dairy farming has featured heavily in concerns over the potential dangers arising from antibiotic resistance following their almost routine usage as preventatives in the recent past.

A survey published this week has revealed 90 per cent of dairy farmers are now convinced the farming industry must take a proactive lead in the battle to prevent antibiotic resistance.

The best way ­forward is to encourage farmers and vets to work closely together

Dr Kristen Reyher

Those taking part in the survey also thought that, over the next five years, they could cut their own antibiotic use by almost a third in dry cow therapy, while one in five could reduce usage in dealing with clinical mastitis.

The survey of more than 300 farmers, farm managers and farm workers conducted by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) assessed attitudes to and use of antibiotics in dairy and beef farming.

READ MORE: Pig producers confident of addressing antibiotics fears

It was carried out in the wake of the government-commissioned O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance published earlier this year, where the potential future dangers were highlighted.

Dr Kristen Reyher, from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, who collaborated with the RABDF, said the results were very encouraging, especially when dairy farmers themselves thought it possible to achieve a reduction of 30 per cent in antibiotic dry cow therapy use within the next five years.

She added that the survey had also thrown up possible reductions of 15 per cent in antibiotic use to treat calf diseases such as pneumonia and calf scour, and 20 per cent to treat clinical mastitis in milking cows.

She encouraged farmers and vets to work together to reduce the on-farm usage of antibiotics, and she pointed out that the university’s own practice had not prescribed any antimicrobials in recent years.

“There are big gains to be made, and the best way ­forward is to encourage farmers and vets to work closely together,” she said.

RABDF council member Di Wastenage said the findings indicated that some of the motivation to reduce antibiotic might have come down the supply chain.

“Three-quarters of respondents in dairying said their milk purchaser was starting to ask about antibiotic use,” she said.

“Alongside this, 97 per cent thought the sector needed to be seen to be ‘doing its bit’ to tackle the issue, and 88 per cent agreed reductions needed to happen before they were forced to make them.”

The survey results will be fed into farming industry initiatives to measure and reduce use of antibiotics.

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