Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Rise in farm vaccines could help to curb antibiotic resistance

January 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Livestock

Vaccination of sheep and calves against key livestock diseases has risen to one of the highest levels in seven years – helping to reduce the use of antibiotics.

Almost 10m doses of vaccine were sold for use in cattle in 2018 – the latest year for which figures are available. The UK sheep sector saw the highest uptake of vaccines in over six years with almost 39m doses sold in 2018.

The figures are contained in report published last autumn by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. They are based on analysis of data from animal health market research specialists Kynetec.

AHDB lead veterinary scientist Derek Armstrong said the the big increase was in vaccines to protect against pneumonia in calves – a condition many vets would otherwise end up treating with antibiotics.

UK sales have risen 35% since 2011, with two fifths of animals receiving vaccine protection in 2018, according to the figures. Vaccines for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis have increased by 50% over the same period.

High-risk situation

The increasing trend for respiratory disease prevention is particularly relevant when cattle are brought inside, says Mr Armstrong. Weaning and winter housing can be a high-risk, high-stress situation for livestock.

“Prevention is definitely better than cure – heading off infection with careful nutrition, good ventilation and appropriate vaccination will also increase growth rates as animals won’t be fighting off infection.”

One in five breeding cows now receives vaccination for calf enteritis – protecting the calf through passive transfer of antibodies in her colostrum. But the data also shows vaccine use to prevent BVD fell to its lowest level since 2011.

This could be a positive sign that BVD-free herds are now concentrating on biosecurity rather than vaccination to combat the problem.

“Either way it’s something the industry needs to keep an eye on – especially as BVD is a disease which impacts the immune system and can lead to bacterial infections which then need antibiotic treatment,” adds Mr Armstrong.

Sheep diseases

This figures also show that more than two-thirds of all sheep which should be vaccinated against clostridial diseases were vaccinated – for the first time since 2012. And more than half were vaccinated against Pasteurella.

Fiona Lovatt, chairman of the Sheep Antibiotic Guardian Group, said: “This is positive step in the right direction as we try to shift behaviour away from treating disease to planning ahead to prevent disease and protect the flock.”

Vaccination to protect against abortion has also risen steadily since 2013 – despite issues with vaccine supply. Further uptake could deliver significantly improved lambing percentages on-farm, said Dr Lovatt.

“It is still only one in four first-time breeding ewes that is protected against yoxoplasma, and two in every five against enzootic abortion.”

While sales of foot rot vaccine had steadily climbed since 2013, there was a small drop in uptake from 15% of breeding animals in 2017 to 13% in 2018. But this may have been due to the very dry summer.

Although not essential for every flock to use every available vaccine, Dr Lovatt said there was definitely a case for all shepherds to plan for disease control alongside their vet as they reflect on the risks their flock faces.

“Foot rot vaccine should always be considered if more than 2% of the flock is lame with foot rot at any one time,” she added.

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