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Responsible Use of Antimicrobials - Good Practice Guidelines

Good Practice Guidelines - July 2017

It is important that all veterinary surgeons, with sheep under their care, comply with the current veterinary medicines regulations(1) regarding the prescribing of antibiotics and we would advise they also ensure they are prescribing in accordance with BVA guidance on responsible use of antibiotics(2)

Vets that have sheep under their care should expect to engage with sheep-specific CPD and actively engage with their sheep farmer clients on an annual basis.   All sheep farms should have a health plan written in conjunction with their veterinary surgeon and reviewed at least annually. A review of preventative health strategies and all antimicrobial use should be included in the health plan. 

We know that the critically important antibiotics (fluoroquinolones, systemic 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins and colistin, as designated by the European Medicines Agency(3) and the VMD(4)) are already used at very low levels within the UK sheep industry(5).  We would suggest that going forward they should only be used in sheep under exceptional circumstances and where culture and sensitivity clearly indicate that there is no alternative appropriate antibiotic.

Veterinary surgeons should work to refine the way antibiotics are used on sheep farms by encouraging uptake by farmers of alternate methods of disease control wherever possible. These include biosecurity, vaccination, improved farm hygiene and other management actions. This document does not discuss every use of antimicrobials in the treatment of clinical disease though it is expected that specific areas that are not discussed in this document (eg mastitis, eye disease) are also covered in the health plan as relevant to the individual flock.

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