UK poultry sector cuts antibiotic use by 50% in one year

Various alternatives have been used to replace antibiotics in a prophylactic role, including probiotics, butyrate and organic acids: 'Our members keep trialin different methods, but we don’t have any scientific evidence as to whether one alternative or more in combination has led to reductions in the use of antibiotics,” said Kaul. “Trials have been taking place, but we don’t have any results yet.' © istock

UK poultry farmers not only halved antibiotic usage during the year to 2016 and eliminated the prophylactic use of antibiotics altogether, they did this as part of a 71% reduction in use since 2012, over a five-year period when poultry meat production increased by 11%, says the BPC.

The 50% reduction in a single year was accounted for by a cut of 40% or so in chickens and 64% in turkeys. 

Additional achievements listed in the British Poultry Council’s (BPC’s) 2017 Antibiotic Stewardship Report include an end to the use of Colistin (Polymyxins) and the development of new antibiotic standards associated with the Red Tractor quality assurance mark. The new standards are due to be introduced in October.

Between 2012 and 2016, cuts to what the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs) included a 77% reduction in the use of Macrolides and a 72% reduction in Fluoroquinolones. The use of Tetracyclines dropped by 82% over the same period, and Amoxicillin by 48%.

“All of this has been driven by the BPC’s clinical governance approach, and the critical decision-making about whether to apply antibiotics and, if so, how much; whether there are other options or other antibiotics as an alternative to CIAs,” public affairs manager Shraddha Kaul explained to FeedNavigator.

The BPC states, “zero use [of antibiotics] is not an option,” instead emphasizing sustainable use.

Probiotics, butyrate and organic acids

Various alternatives have been used to replace antibiotics in a prophylactic role, including probiotics, butyrate and organic acids. “Our members keep trialing different methods, but we don’t have any scientific evidence as to whether one alternative or more in combination has led to reductions in the use of antibiotics,” said Kaul. “Trials have been taking place, but we don’t have any results yet.”

The BPC report talks about the ‘3 Rs’: replace, reduce and refine. The latter involves refining best practice in terms of the strategies applied to reductions in use. “It comes down to data collection and asking how you can make even more improvements,” she said. “We run [the stewardship group] and our members are a part of it. An exchange takes place with regular feedback, as well as the big-picture data.”

With the introduction of BPC Antibiotic Stewardship in 2011, the poultry meat industry became the first UK livestock sector to systematically compile antibiotic usage data and communicate it to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Annual data is published in the UK Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS) report.

According to the BPC, the next challenge is to examine the links between antibiotic use and resistance in the poultry production chain.

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