While the sector set a target of reducing use by 10%, as detailed in the 2016 Targets Task Force report, lack of data meant this could not be measured.
Recognising the significant issues with data collection, work was undertaken in the cattle and sheep sectors to explore what a similar industry tool to the electronic-Medicine Book for pigs could look like for their respective industries. Following an initial pilot project with cattle in 2018, a second phase of work on a Medicines Hub was commissioned, this time for both cattle and sheep data. The aim is to capture: national sector level reporting of antibiotic use in line with ESVAC methodology; farm level data for identification of trends in how antibiotics are being used and to facilitate benchmarking within and between farms. The Medicine Hub is being launched by AHDB in January 2021.
A campaign to target Enzootic Abortion of Ewes (EAE) was also launched in June 2019. With EAE responsible for more than a third of abortion cases in sheep every year, the campaign encourages farmers to vaccinate ewes in advance of tupping (mating) so that both unnecessary lamb losses and inappropriate use of antibiotics can be prevented. More about this campaign on the Ideas Hub or by visiting the short link bit.ly/EAEcampaign.
The sector reported an update on progress towards targets in October 2019, where it said the mean use from a range of datasets was 2 to 20 mg/kg.
In 2020 it was reported that there had been a reduction of 34% in use of oral antibiotics used on neonatal lambs since 2016, which achieved the target laid down in 2016
As well as data capture, which is a priority in the new 2021-2024 targets, tackling ‘hotspots’ of antibiotic usage remains a priority, including prevention of joint ill or watery mouth in neonatal lambs and prevention of lameness and abortion. These are being tackled through promoting uptake of vaccination, and improvements to nutrition and hygiene at lambing time.
For more detail on the sheep sector targets which have been achieved, and new targets including national data collection, please refer to the Targets Task Force Report 2020
For other case studies, inspiration and technical tools to help farmers and vets reduce, replace or refine antibiotic use, visit the Ideas Hub.