Sheep industry on awards shortlist for progress made on responsible use of antibiotics

12th June 2018

A campaign promoting the importance and benefits of responsible use of antimicrobials in sheep flocks has been shortlisted for the Antibiotic Guardian Awards 2018, highlighting the effective profile-raising work of the Sheep Industry Group for Antibiotic Awareness.

The UK sheep industry has traditionally been a low user of antibiotics and, amid fears this might cause sheep farmers and vets to be complacent and unwilling to engage in activity to reduce usage levels, the Sheep Industry Group was set up to ensure a concentrated effort to communicate simple, coordinated messages. Under the leadership of the Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG), the group brings together leading sheep veterinary and sheep farming organisations to share consistent and practical information.

Fiona Lovatt, sheep vet and Sheep Industry Group Chairman, says: “Through good collaboration it has been possible to reach large numbers of farmers, their vets, the merchants and pharmaceutical companies that sell sheep health products, as well as involve the companies that process sheepmeat and the retailers that sell it.”

The success of the group’s work has come despite some of the most difficult lambing weather conditions in living memory, with indications that a number of sheep farmers have dramatically reduced their prophylactic antibiotic use for neonatal lambs.

Dr Lovatt continues: “This year I have been working with a farmer who had previously routinely dosed and injected every single lamb as a matter of habit. This year they avoided injections all together and only dosed the few high-risk cases – not needing to buy any oral antibiotics until three weeks into lambing. Not only does this represent responsible use and reduce the farmer’s risk of developing drug resistance on his farm, but I estimate they have also saved a couple of thousand pounds in purchasing medicines.”

Iain Richard, President of the Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS), says: “Antibiotic use is essential on sheep farmers, to ensure high standards of health and welfare, but this has to be targeted, responsible use and we are very proud to be part of the Sheep Industry Group and raising awareness on farms in a practical, consistent fashion.”

Phil Stocker, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA), says: “This award is a great opportunity for farming to be seen within a competition that was established to focus on human health but has expanded to acknowledge that responsible antibiotic use is also an active and improving area in agriculture. We are pleased to see our work is having some effect and that this has been recognised by the award judges.”

The Sheep Industry Group for Antibiotic Awareness has been shortlisted in the ‘Community Communications’ section of the awards, the winners of which will be announced at the Antibiotic Guardian conference in late June.

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The award entry is supported by a poster summarising the Sheep Industry Group's activity.
The award entry is supported by a poster summarising the Sheep Industry Group's activity.