Although antibiotics sales to British farmers have remained roughly static over the past five years, the sale for use in pig and poultry production have seen a slight reduction, according to the annual report from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
This year the VMD has started using a new measurement, called a "population correction unit" (PCU) to fall in line with the European standard. It takes the weight the animal will most likely be when antibiotics are administered, rather than liveweight at slaughter as in previous years.
The report found that, relative to the increase in the number of pigs and poultry, antibiotics sales in 2012 have declined slightly to 55mg/PCU when compared with the five-year average of 59mg/PCU. The figure for 2012 is actually slightly higher than 2011, but that year was itself well down on 2010, when sales had jumped.
These fluctuations are put down to stockpiling caused by a category of antibiotics changing ownership, so the VMD considered the latest data to be a return to the norm.
The VMD said in the report that there are limitations to using sales to determine actual use "particularly when extrapolating to represent antimicrobial consumption in any given species".
Sales data generally over-estimate use, as some products will be exported and some is wasted or not used at all. The figures also take DEFRA animal population numbers at one point in time which are a "snapshot", so don't reflect the constantly changing UK poultry population.
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