RCVS Knowledge leading major collaboration to support antibiotic stewardship in farm animals

An initiative aimed at providing UK vets with the latest antibiotic stewardship principles for treating specific farm animal species is being rolled out by the charity RCVS Knowledge, in collaboration with a number of farming organisations.

The Farm Vet Champions project aims to provide inspiration and leadership to a growing community of large animal vets – mainly targeting those in general practices who see different species of animal each day and who may have limited access to specialised techniques and advice.

The project will also support One Health efforts to manage the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and is a key initiative within the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) targets set to be delivered by the UK cattle and sheep sectors by 2024.

In the first phase of the project, which is funded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), RCVS Knowledge have brought together representatives from major organisations including the National Farmers Union and the British Veterinary Association and its farm animal specialist divisions to create free, evidence-based, species-specific online learning packages under the clinical leadership of Fiona Lovatt, RCVS Recognised Specialist in Sheep Health and Production.

RCVS Knowledge antibiotic stewardship in farm animals

The training will be free to access to anyone who signs up to become a Farm Vet Champion and will cover all types of food-producing animals. It will also contain modules on communication skills, particularly with respect to farmer relationships, behaviour and compliance.

There will be no limit to the number of Farm Vet Champions within a practice, to help encourage and improve antimicrobial prescribing stewardship. Farm Vet Champions will be able to carry their status with them if they move between practices, to strengthen capacity in this area throughout the professions.

The initiative has the support of NOAH, the National Farmers Union (NFU) the Food Industry Initiative in Antimicrobials, Innovation for Agriculture, the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in Northern Ireland, the Scottish One Health Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Resistance programme, Ruminant Health & Welfare and the Chief Veterinary Officers for the UK, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The team from the Arwain Vet Cymru project, a national veterinary prescribing initiative in Wales, have also provided extensive support and expertise.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance has also welcomed this development. Farm Vet Champions are an integral part of the targets for responsible use of antibiotics in ruminants in particular, which were launched in November 2020 and are due to be delivered by 2024.

Chris Gush, Executive Director of RCVS Knowledge, said: “RCVS Knowledge is proud to be delivering this resource, which is so critical for the veterinary professions, and indeed the One Health agenda. It is strongly in line with our mission to advance the quality of veterinary care for the benefit of animals, the public and society, and recognises our central and trusted position as providers of high-quality evidence-based veterinary medicine tools and resources to the professions. We are happy to be working closely with the key industry associations to create a valuable, practical resource that will have a tangible impact on antibiotic prescribing in the UK.”

Fiona Lovatt, Farm Vet Champions Clinical Lead, said: “I am really excited to be leading this crucially important project, which has been specifically designed to inspire a community of farm vets and engage individuals at the precise points that they interact with their mixed farm clients. The project is designed to build capacity, capability and confidence in vets as they engage with farmers in planning ahead, preventing disease challenge and protecting animals to ensure responsible medicine use. From a wider perspective, it is consolidating and strengthening collaboration across veterinary and livestock agricultural organisations as well as with processors and retailers in the fulfilment of this hugely important common goal.”

Mark Jelley, cattle farmer and NFU Livestock Board member, added: “The NFU is very pleased to support this initiative – we have become increasingly aware of the threat posed to on-farm antibiotic use and the challenges presented by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). I strongly believe that, as an industry, we can both reduce antibiotic use and maintain access to the vital range of products available to us for the sake of animal welfare. Improving both relationships and understanding between farmers and vets is vitally important in this process. I encourage all livestock farmers to have a conversation about antibiotic use with their vet and encourage them to sign up to the Farm Vet Champions project.”

To register your interest and receive project updates, visit rcvsknowledge.org/farm-vet-champions and follow the project hashtag #FarmVetChampions

Read more articles on RCVS Knowledge here.