LEVELS of antimicrobials used on dairy farms continue to drop, with a new report showing that 2023 saw the largest decrease than in the previous three years.

Total antimicrobial usage declined year-on-year to an average of 13.7 mg/kg PCU, according to the latest figures by Kingshay.

The dairy specialist’s report draws on data from 1,002 dairy herds across the UK in the year to March 2023.

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When comparing 2023 and 2022, 52% of herds sampled reduced their total antimicrobial usage by an average of 7.4 mg/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.

The positive trends in the report also confirm the findings of another recent one, which shared that UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have reduced by 59% since 2014.

According to Kingshay, 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.

Report co-author Dr Tim Potter said: “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 remain a role for them in animal health.

“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 shows that every region has reduced its total antimicrobial usage compared to the previous report.

All regions are now sitting below the 2024 target of 17.9 mg/kg PCU, with Wales showing a marked improvement with a rate of 31% reduction in antimicrobial usage.

This year’s report also gives a detailed analysis of trends from the past five years of data.

Christina Ford, who also co-authored the report, explained: “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.”