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Farmers must be empowered and supported in responsible use of antimicrobials on farms

Farmers and stock keepers play a major role in ensuring the responsible use of antimicrobials on farms and must be empowered to work with their vets to achieve this, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

11 May 2019, at 9:00am

BVA’s updated position on responsible antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, launched on Friday (10 May), consolidates and expands upon BVA’s existing antimicrobial resistance policies. It proposes 15 overarching recommendations on responsible antimicrobial stewardship for vets, farmers and government. The position also emphasises that an ambitious, cross-sector One Health approach ‘without a culture of blame’ is instrumental to containing and controlling the threat of antimicrobial resistance in animals, humans and the environment.

Ninety-four per cent of vets in large animal and mixed practice said in a recent BVA survey that they were concerned about antimicrobial resistance. More than nine in ten vets mentioned that they were concerned about the potential inability to treat infection. BVA’s recommendations come amid an increasing global push for One Health working to protect antimicrobials for the sake of animal and human health, reflected both in the UK government’s 20-year vision and new five-year national action plan and the recent UN Interagency Coordinating Group report.

BVA says that vets should continue to be guided by the seven principles of responsible antimicrobial use. These include avoiding inappropriate use, monitoring antimicrobial sensitivity, working with clients to avoid the need for antimicrobials (through preventative approaches such as herd or flock health plans, for example), and recording and justifying any deviations from protocols. As part of this, BVA has released a new-look seven-point-plan poster for vets to display on practice walls.

British Veterinary Association President Simon Doherty said:

“Antimicrobial resistance is an issue of critical importance to society as a whole and BVA is committed to providing leadership on the issue.

“Ongoing work by vets, farmers and industry through the RUMA Targets Task Force has led to a 40 percent reduction in sales of antibiotics meant for use in food-producing animals over the last five years, with sales of the Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics dropping by 52 percent in this period. We must maintain this momentum in the face of the ongoing global threat posed by antimicrobial resistance.

“Farmers and stock keepers play a huge role in developing and applying disease control measures on farms in collaboration with their vet. The Agriculture Bill provides an opportunity to further incentivise and empower farmers to work with their vets to ensure responsible antimicrobial use. BVA will continue working with our specialist divisions and all key stakeholders to build upon current achievements. We currently chair the UK One Health Coordination Group, which includes stakeholders representing human, animal and environmental health and welfare interests.”

“A collaborative approach to AMR, underpinned by a commitment from each of us to maintain the highest standards of stewardship in using antimicrobials, especially Critically Important Antibiotics, is the only way we can preserve these essential medicines for both humans and animals in the future.”

BVA’s position reiterates that Critically Important Antibiotics should remain available for veterinary use in the interests of animal welfare. However, it calls on vets to restrict the use of Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics as a last resort, where no other product will be effective for the condition being treated.

Other recommendations include:

  • Vets should familiarise themselves with the antimicrobial reduction targets for their sector and continue to work with farmers and stock keepers to achieve these.
  • Farm assurance schemes should incorporate responsible use of antimicrobials as a scheme requirement.
  • Government should promote incentives to improve husbandry and biosecurity measures on farm.
  • The development of effective diagnostic tools – for culture, sensitivity and monitoring for resistance genes – must be prioritised and there should be a greater focus on improving surveillance and information sharing.
  • Government should promote incentives to improve husbandry and biosecurity measures on farm.
  • Government should continue to work with vets and industry to review and set further rational targets through the RUMA Targets Task Force.