Lamb and beef producers have been set targets to reduce antibiotic use by 10 per cent by 2020 with emphasis on reducing preventative use.

During a series of Farming Connect meetings held across Wales to advise farmers on appropriate antibiotic use and held in conjunction with local vet practices, beef and sheep farmers were urged to implement preventative strategies.

Harry Williams, of Teilo Vets, Llandeilo, said that while there was minimal use of critically important antibiotics (CIAs) in the beef and sheep sector, prophylactic practices were widespread.

Farmers routinely blanket dose with Spectam to avoid watery mouth in lambs while Oxytetracycline is used to avoid abortion in ewes.

Routine antibiotic use is outdated for abortion control, Mr Williams warned. While it can help to contain an outbreak, a vaccination programme is more effective and economically viable to control the disease.

Routine prophylactic antibiotics in neonatal lambs must only be used in high-risk situations, he warned, referencing the Farm Assured Welsh Livestock (FAWL) health and welfare review which has sections on antibiotic usage and anthelmintic protocols.

While antimicrobials still play an important role in animal health and welfare, Mr Williams urged farmers to consider whether changes in flock management could reduce their use. When considering whether they are required, each case should be evaluated on an individual basis, he said.

Understanding different categories of drenches was a first step in parasite control. These should be administered at the correct dose rate and excessive dosing of adult ewes should be avoided.

Worm control programmes should be carried out in conjunction with faecal egg counting, which indicate the level of worm burden. This would help in selecting the most appropriate time for dosing.

In the beef sector, hotspot areas for antibiotic use include respiratory diseases, calf scour and lameness, but cases could be prevented with strategies such as improving building ventilation and foot trimming.

Mr Williams said vaccines would play a key role in reducing antibiotic use but handling and storage was critical to their effectiveness. Most should be stored at two to eight degrees Centigrade, he advised.

Cleanliness and hygiene are essential during administration to stop dirt being introduced on the needle, which could result in an abscess forming.

Although the targets for reducing antibiotic use are ambitious, Mr Williams advises a step-by-step approach.

Identifying the conditions that require antibiotic treatment on an individual farm level is a first step to making changes.

“Focus on what the main problems are on your farm and deal with these first,’’ said Mr Williams.

He advised farmers to reference their annual FAWL review document which will have sections on antibiotic usage and anthelmintic protocols.

Farming Connect is working with vets across Wales to provide an opportunity for farmers to carry out animal health sampling and testing with their local vet. Farm businesses registered with Farming Connect are eligible for a £100 voucher towards the cost of sampling and testing.

Sarah Hughes, Farming Connect red meat technical officer (South Wales), said antibiotics should always be a last resort, after management issues have been addressed.

“Use animal health management plans to address issues that are causing diseases and illness, it is not only sound practice from a financial point of view but demonstrates good responsible medicine use,’’ she said.

For details of future antibiotic awareness events visit