Antibiotic resistance is caused by improper and over use of antibiotics, which causes bacteria to change and become resistant to the effects of the antibiotic. This is an ever growing issue in both human and animal medicines, and so usage must be monitored carefully to help mitigate against resistance.
Research has shown that usage levels in sheep farms across the UK is 11.4mg/population correction unit (pcu), with some farms reading as much as 50mg/pcu. It is estimated that the levels found on cattle farms are around 12-16mg/pcu. This means that per kilogram of body weight at the point of treatment that the above quantity of antibiotic was found. This is extremely significant as antibiotic resistance may be passed from animals to humans through the consumption of meat, which is a significant issue which the meat industry must strive to address.
As a result of these factors the UK released targets for antibiotic use for 2020. These include a 10% reduction in the use of antibiotics on cattle and sheep farms alike.
The advice given to help farmers achieve a reduction in antibiotic usage is to use antibiotics as little as possible, but as much as necessary.
This means that farmers should take measures to ensure that they are not over using antibiotics, by having an Animal Health Plan which is approved by the vet, and to maintain good animal husbandry measures to reduce the likelihood of infection such as maintaining high hygiene standards.
In addition farmers should use antibiotics as much as they are needed; should an animal become sick, it should be treated appropriately with consultation of the vet. Dosage rates should also be monitored, with only the necessary amount for the animal’s weight being administered and the full course of antibiotics should be administered as instructed by the vet.