Game sector organisations have been working with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, RUMA and their own sector’s specialist vets on continued antibiotic reduction.
Voluntary monitoring of all antibiotic use in game birds began in 2016.
The Game Farmers’ Association called a meeting of specialist game bird vets and feed compounders in May 2017 to prepare for antibiotic reductions in the summer game rearing season.
The targets set by the game bird sector and announced in October 2017 were to cut usage by 25% in 2017 as a total tonnage, but also achieve a similar reduction in use of highest priority CIAs over the same time period. Following that, the aim is to then reduce tonnages by a further 25% between 2018 and 2020.
Subsequent to this, data from the 2017 rearing season was collected. An early capture of data was possible due to the main timing for antibiotics treatments in game birds being the spring and summer season. It was announced in October 2017 that antibiotic use in game birds was brought down by 36% in 2017 compared with 2016, including a 53% reduction for those antibiotics administered in game bird food.
A year later, the 2018 rearing results showed another reduction, this time of 24%. This means that in the two years since the gamebird sector rolled out its voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics, overall use fell by 51%, with antibiotic use in gamebird feed slashed by 70%.
A renewed call for action has been made in response to figures for 2019 antibiotic usage which show a small increase of 7% from 2018 data, associated with very wet weather during the rearing season and an unprecedented need to treat sick birds hit by the very challenging disease Mycoplasma.
The gamebird sector has already made changes that are expected to contribute to further falls in antibiotic use. A new Game Farm Audit to ensure high standards, including disease prevention, has recently been launched by the British Game Alliance. Other industry bodies, including the GFA, are funding urgent research into gamebird diseases, including Mycoplasma.
The update on progress against specific targets published in November 2019, includes 2018 data but not 2019 data, which is usually available earlier than other sectors due to the tight period of use, but due to an earlier publishing date was not available at time of going to print.