UK dairy farmers are continuing to reduce levels of antimicrobials used within their herds, having decreased them by 59% since 2014 according to new data.

That was the welcoming news from Kingshay’s latest antimicrobial focus report for the year to March 2023. Their figures are based on information from 1002 dairy herds across the UK.

Kingshay uses agri-technologies and date driven insight to deliver value and sustainability across the supply chain, by providing independent, practical research based advice and services to dairy farmers and their advisors throughout the UK.

Established in 1991, they are now part of a network of 250 animal health advisors within VetPartners to help reduce antimicrobials.

The Scottish Farmer: Dr Tim PotterDr Tim Potter

“As we consider where we go from here it’s important to remember the target is not zero antimicrobial usage – antibiotics are a key medicine for the treatment of bacterial infections, and there will always be a role for them in animal health,” explained Dr Tim Potter, Kingshay and Westpoint Farm Vets senior clinical director and report co-author.

The change highlights the determination and perseverance of farmers and vets to continue to reduce antimicrobial usage even when targets are met and usage is already low.

Results found that antimicrobial usage has fallen year on year to an average of 13.7mg/kg PCU, with a larger decrease witnessed in 2023 than in the previous three years.

When comparing 2023 and 2022, 52% of herds sampled by Kingshay, part of the VetPartners group, reduced their total antimicrobial usage by an average of 7.4mg/kg PCU, compared to the previous year. This is a marked improvement in 2021-2022, where 36% of herds reduced their usage by 5.9 mg/kg PCU.

The report also highlights a decrease in total antimicrobial usage across all herds, with the lowest 25% quartile reducing on average by 3.64 mg/kg PCU.

Dr Tim Potter added: “Whenever we use antimicrobials, it’s important we do so in a targeted manner, and we continue with the focus on their responsible use to preserve their effectiveness for both animal and human health.”

Breaking down the data into regions has shown every region has reduced its total antimicrobial usage compared to the previous report.

The Scottish Farmer: Christina FordChristina Ford

Also speaking at the online seminar, Christina Ford, Kingshay antimicrobial product owner, who co-authored the report said: “All regions are now sitting below the 2024 target of 17.9 mg/kg PCU. This year’s report also gives a detailed analysis of trends from the past five years of data.

“The group of highest users, when analysed as a quartile, reduced their usage. This was an improvement on last year when the group had increased their total antimicrobial usage. This shows everyone is making significant improvements.

“We’re positive that higher users, due to disease outbreaks, will continue to work with their vets and advisors to help control these situations,” she added,

It is crucial for farmers to review all aspects of the farm, management of diseases such as calf pneumonia is one of the key factors for high usage on some farms.

“But again the aim is not net zero usage but to ensure where products used it is done in a responsible manner,” concluded Ms Ford.

The 2023 annual Kingshay dairy antimicrobial focus report can be accessed via the Kingshay website: