Following in the footsteps of dairy farmers, who last week indicated they would reduce the levels of antibiotics used in their sector, UK sheep farmers are also doing their bit in the battle against antimicrobial resistance.
While UK sheep farming is a low user of antibiotics with a free-range approach that means there are very few occasions where flocks are reliant on routine use, the sector has recognised it cannot be complacent and has a role in play in ensuring appropriate use.
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We need to play our part in ensuring these medicines continue to be available and effective for both our human and animal populations.
“To focus our efforts, we need to understand why and when farmers are choosing to use antibiotics, so we can steer future work towards increasing vaccination for some conditions and finding alternative solutions to others.”
Stocker was speaking after results from a survey of sheep farmers revealed where and why antibiotics were being used.
Independent sheep specialists Kate Phillips and Karen Wheeler of ADAS will analyse the results from more than 350 farmers with the view to guiding future support and development work.
The issue of antimicrobial resistance is recognised as a global challenge, with 193 countries signing a declaration to work together to combat the risks. Defra has committed to an average cross-UK, cross-sector target of cutting usage by 19 per cent over four years.