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Antibiotic sales and usage figures show encouraging progress despite challenging year for livestock sector, BVA says

09 Nov 2021

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The latest VARSS and RUMA Targets Task Force 2 reports capture steady progress in stewarding responsible antibiotic sale and use across the UK livestock sector.

Antibiotic sales and usage figures show encouraging progress despite challenging year for livestock sector, BVA says Image

We have welcomed findings from the UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) Report 2020 and the RUMA Targets Task Force 2 Report, launched yesterday by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), respectively.

The VARSS report shows an overall reduction in the sales of antibiotics, including highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs), for food-producing animals between 2019 and 2020. Taken since 2014, this translates into a reduction in sales of antibiotics and HP-CIAs by 52% and 79%, respectively.* The report also notes improvement in antibiotic usage data across most livestock groups and includes veterinary antibiotic sales figures for cats and dogs, which show a 7% reduction in the year from 2019.

The RUMA report summarises the first year’s progress against antibiotic use targets identified by the UK livestock industry’s Targets Task Force 2 (TTF2) in November last year. It notes significant industry challenges from Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic in this period, with some sectors experiencing reduced production and others experiencing severe supply chain issues, all of which has had an impact on figures. However, despite these challenges, the report captures some good progress and achievements against the second set of targets.

BVA Senior Vice President James Russell, who chaired the webinar marking the launch of the reports, said:

“Both the VARSS and RUMA reports provide important annual insights into how we’re doing in stewarding antibiotics use on farms across the UK and also how those efforts are paying off in terms of reducing the levels of resistance to antibiotics.

“There is no doubt that this past year has been unprecedented due to the global pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union, which has brought unique challenges to realising the ambitious targets. Progress despite these challenges is to be applauded and should be seen as a testament to the hugely successful collaborative work being carried out by vets, farmers and the industry to champion responsible antibiotic use and greater disease prevention measures across each of the livestock sectors.

“Antimicrobial resistance remains a huge concern for vets, which is why we must maintain this momentum in the face of the ongoing global threat it poses to the health of animals, humans and the environment. We are pleased to see the successful rollout and response to the Farm Vet Champions initiative, which aims to train vets as veterinary stewards and to impart medicines best practice training for veterinary and agriculture students.

“BVA is committed to providing continued leadership on the issue of antibiotic resistance and will continue working with our specialist divisions, RUMA, the UK One Health Coordination Group, and other key stakeholders to build upon current achievements.”

The two reports come ahead of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November) and European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November). BVA will be marking these dates by highlighting the collaborative work being done by all the livestock sectors via blogs, posters and social media content.

BVA’s policy position on the responsible use of antimicrobials in food producing animals is available to view here

*Figures for antibiotic sales as measured in mg/kg; HP-CIA sales data as measured in tonnes

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