Antibiotics in Farming

Antibiotic resistance is the biggest threat to modern medicine, and we must act now to help keep antibiotics effective for future generations. 

The Government has long promoted the responsible use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine, working closely with the farming industry and the veterinary profession, publishing its first five-year strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance in 2013. In January 2019 the Government launched a further 5-year action plan, as well as a 20-year vision for how the UK will contribute to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance by 2040.

The UK sales in antibiotics for food producing animals was reduced by 53 per cent between 2014 and 2018. This reduction is a testament to the improvements industry and the veterinary profession have made in antibiotic stewardship, training and disease control. This is a great example of how real change can be achieved when Government and industry work together. We should commend our farmers and vets for setting an excellent example for others around the world to follow. 

A further target has been set to reduce UK antibiotic use in food-producing animals by 25 per cent between 2016 and 2020 through implementation of agreed industry targets, with new objectives for each animal sector being set by 2021. I believe long term sector-specific reduction targets, focused on the principle that “prevention is better than cure”, are important in helping to bring sustainable change across the agricultural industry.

Farming in Wales is a devolved area and in Wales the European Innovation Partnership has funded over 100 rural projects including improving flock nutrition and hygiene which can lead to a reduction in the use of antibiotics.

The overall aims of the project in Wales were to:

  • Promote responsible use of antibiotics to maintain the effectiveness of drugs and control costs.
  • Increase farmer confidence in ration formulation and management practices, reducing prophylactic use of antibiotics at lambing time while maintaining and improving health and welfare.
  • Improve nutrition and management practices in order to improve vigour, reduce mortality and reduce investment in finishing.
  • Empower the next generation of farmers to adopt alternatives to the use of antibiotics, helping them become more resilient.

I have been assured that Ministers will continue to emphasise to the veterinary and farming communities that routine preventative use of antibiotics is not acceptable.