Reducing antimicrobial use at a local level

Mark Bryan looks into how VetSouth is performing and what changes farmers are implementing to reduce their antimicrobial usage.

Antimicrobial use (AMU) is the term given to describe the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials.

You may have noticed a strong movement over recent years to reduce AMU in both humans and animals. This is because antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a huge risk to our continued use of antimicrobials; and the more we use, the greater the risk.

Of real concern for us is that around 75% of all antibiotics used in the world are used on animals. This has put pressure on veterinarians and farmers to lower this usage, with the big stick of regulation hanging over us if we don’t.

The good news is that NZ is the third lowest user of antimicrobials in animals in the world. The bad news is that (just like for the All Blacks) the rest of the world is catching up fast. The UK has halved its AMU in animals in the past 5 years. While NZ’s has shifted, it is not by that much.

We have made a difference at a local level though. Measuring AMU across our dairy clients, we have seen it steadily decreasing across the board since 2018/19. It is now 16% lower than 4 years ago.

More importantly, the use of ‘red light’ antibiotics (those that we are really targeting to reduce and use sparingly) has fallen by 84% in the same time period. Even use of ‘green light’ antibiotics has dropped by 11%.

This is impressive, and highlights the progressive steps that our farmers are taking to lead on this. Small changes matter:

  • Using more anti-inflammatories instead of (or alongside) antibiotics, especially for mastitis.
  • Using cow-side tests for mastitis to target the right antibiotic, or using only anti-inflammatories and no antibiotics.
  • Greater use of teat sealants at drying off to replace Dry Cow Treatment.
  • Vaccination to prevent disease. Rotavirus scours, salmonella and clostridial diseases can all be prevented by vaccinating. This not only reduces AMU, but gives you a greater return on your animal health spend by improving the productivity of your stock.

Here at VetSouth, we have also been leading research into reducing AMU. Local and nationwide projects with farmers have demonstrated effective reductions of up to a third over 3 years.

Our ‘AMU Dashboard’ is the most sophisticated AMU measuring tool in NZ, allowing us to chart AMU across our business and drill down into different types of antibiotics to compare, for example, injectables vs intrammamaries.

If you want to look at how your farm is travelling, check in with your KeyVet to review the AMU Dashboard with them. 

AMU dashboard

- Mark Bryan


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