- EIP-AGRI Projects
- Focus groups
|Geographical scope|| |
reduce antibiotic use
An Operational Group from Wales, UK looked into flock management (mainly improving nutrition and hygiene) in order to reduce the need for antibiotics on sheep farms at lambing time. Project coordinator Emma Jones tells us “Across the lambing seasons from 2017-19, the seven farms involved in the project reduced their antibiotic use at lambing time by 60%, on average.” In addition, the farms involved saw improvements in production and profitability, while maintaining high standards of animal health and welfare.
This Operational Group ran from 2017-2019. Partners in the project included farmers, local vets and an independent specialist sheep vet. They all worked together to developprotocols to be adopted at lambing time. The protocols included managing ewe nutrition up to lambing, to ensure that lambs received sufficient quantity and quality of colostrum, and ensuring lambs were born into a hygienic environment. These protocols enabled the farmers to manage nutrition and hygiene practices to improve lamb vigour and reduce mortality, as well as reducing their use of antibiotics at lambing time. One of the project objectives was to empower the next generation of farmers to adopt alternatives to the use of antibiotics, helping them become more resilient.
The global burden of antimicrobial resistant infections is growing and poses a serious threat to human and animal health. Reducing the use of antimicrobials in the agricultural sector can ensure a safer and healthier food supply, as there are concerns that food producing animals may contribute to the development of human antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, “It is possible that in the years to come, global targets will be put in place to reduce antibiotic use in treated livestock. Taking measures now to reduce antibiotic use will make it easier to manage when these targets are applied” explains Mrs Jones.
Seven farmers from across the island of Anglesey (North West Wales) participated in the project. The vets and specialists visited each farm before and during lambing (for 2 consecutive years). A certain number of analyses and tests were carried out including: analysis of silage to be fed to breeding ewes at lambing time and ensuring that the supplementary feed provided alongside the silage would meet the dietary requirements of the ewes, metabolic profiling of pregnant ewes, colostrum absorption testing of lambs, bedding sampling of pre-lambing, post-lambing pens during lambing, as well as faecal sampling of lambs and post mortems of lambs, when problems occurred. Subsequent advice was provided so that the farmers could make informed choices to create an action plan for lambing time.
Emma Jones continues “The veterinary advice and testing provided, enabled the farmers in the group to embrace management changes at lambing time. These changes included cleaning sheds between batches of ewes, wearing gloves when assisting at lambing and when handling sick lambs, and reducing castration and docking, as these practices can increase the risk of bacterial illnesses such as joint ill.”
“During the second lambing season, improved management of ewe health and nutrition, alongside improved hygiene at lambing time significantly reduced bacterial counts on all farms.”
“In the lambing periods from 2017-19, the seven farms used an average of 59.8% less antibiotics.”
One of the farmers, Gareth Thomas, of Tregynrig, a family-run farm in Cemaes Bay, said one of the simplest, but most effective, measures he put in place was to allow sufficient feeding space for ewes. In order to inform changes in hygiene practices and subsequently reduce antibiotic use,, bedding samples were taken from the pens where ewes were housed, and analysed for bacteria that cause mastitis, joint ill, scours and watery mouth. “Bedding tests in the pre and post lambing pens were vitally important for us to know if we need to do anything to reduce the presence of certain bacteria, such as E.coli,’’ says Mr Thomas. “By testing the bedding we could take action by regularly cleaning, disinfecting and liming the pens.’’
Mr Thomas said the project allowed all the farms to lower their lambing costs. “We did this without compromising on animal health and welfare as our ewes were in the best possible condition before starting lambing, and we were able to focus our spending on the areas where it was most needed,’’ he said.
Main article content: link.
Website (and videos): https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/business/european-innovation-partnership-eip-wales/approved-eip-wales-projects/reducing-antibiotic
On the EIP-AGRI database: https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/find-connect/projects/reducing-antibiotic-use-sheep-farms-lambing-time
Emma Jones Emma.Jones@adas.co.uk