The sheep sector is overall considered a lower user of antibiotics, but is nonetheless committed to further improving stewardship.
The sector is very diverse and dispersed, and with a very large number of producers, collecting data from on-farm medicine books is a challenge.
This means that data collection is a major target for the sector, with the aim of reducing overall use by 10% by 2010. Use of highest priority CIAs is also a focus with the aim of halving use by 2020.
Work in the cattle and sheep sectors is ongoing 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 for what is being called an ‘e-Medicines Hub (eMH)’ 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. Work will continue on this through 2020.
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 3 to 17 mg/kg.
Tackling ‘hotspots’ of antibiotic usage is also a target, including prevention of joint ill or watery mouth in neonatal lambs for, as well as treatment for lameness and abortion. These are being tackled through promoting uptake of vaccination, and improvements to nutrition and hygiene at lambing time.
In 2019 it was reported that there had been a reduction of over 20% in use of oral antibiotics used on neonatal lambs in 2019.
Sales of vaccine for foot rot were down slightly, and for enzootic abortion were up slightly, but this may have been due to weather and availability.