Cattle vets are being called on to help spearhead efforts to populate the new national Medicine Hub with farm antibiotic data.
The call to action, made by the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), asks vets to help dairy, beef and sheep farmers register on the hub before the end of the year.
Figures show that farms in the UK already have among the lowest use of antibiotics in Europe.
But while pig, poultry and aquaculture sectors capture antibiotic data for over 90% of production, the dairy, beef and sheep sectors have struggled to evidence responsible use due to lack of this type of national-level data.
The Medicine Hub – developed by AHDB – plans to address this, offering a central repository to compare antibiotic data from sources including on-farm use and datasets, and vets and processors.
The hub is also developing interfaces to transfer in data collected by the Welsh lamb and beef producers antimicrobial use calculator app and the STAMP antimicrobial usage benchmarking tool in Northern Ireland.
In addition to this, Quality Meat Scotland’s commitment to promoting good antibiotic stewardship includes mandatory collation of antibiotic data to contribute to national recording.
Both the BCVA and the Sheep Veterinary Society have promoted the Medicine Hub in recent months.
Registering farmers will now be a first step towards demonstrating the success of a wide range of antibiotic stewardship activities undertaken in these sectors over the past five years.
BCVA board member and cattle vet Rachel Hayton, who chairs the Medicine Hub’s industry liaison group, says it will take time for the hub to fully evolve – but the information it provides will be invaluable.
“We need to consider UK producers’ reputation and accountability, and meet new national antibiotic use targets agreed by vets and producers through the RUMA Targets Task Force in November 20206," she said.
“We know both vets and farmers have been committed to raising the bar on responsible use of antibiotics – we want them to be able to prove this.”
In addition to meeting national targets, she said UK farmers and vets need to consider EU rule changes, with member states having to provide information on antibiotic use in cattle from 2023 and sheep from 2026.
“This will apply to Northern Ireland directly, but the other three nations indirectly too as they seek trade deals with the EU," Ms Hayton added.
“Vets, as the prescribers and gatekeepers of antibiotics, have a huge role to play in this, which is why we’re asking cattle vets to step up now and be part of developing this platform."
Some vet and producer groups, especially in the dairy sector, are already collating and comparing data.
“Subject to data permissions, we are aiming for these private datasets to be incorporated into the Medicine Hub without duplication on the part of the farmer.
“The Medicine Hub will eventually offer everyone with antibiotic data, whether a single farmer, software company, or consultancy with thousands of records, the chance to benchmark their records against the national dataset.”