Increased vaccine use could help to reduce antibiotic resistance

09 Oct 2019

The number of calves in the UK that are being vaccinated key diseases has risen to one of the highest levels in seven years.

With use of vaccines key in a number of RUMA’s Targets Task Force goals for antibiotic use, published in 2017, this is a sign that UK producers and vets are continuing to engage in what has become a global effort to reduce antibiotic use and, therefore, antibiotic resistance.

Data analysis

The analysis of data from Kynetec, contained in an AHDB report that will be released on October 29 to coincide with the RUMA biennial conference, shows that almost 10 million doses of vaccine were sold for use in cattle in 2018.

AHDB’s head vet Derek Armstrong says that the significant rise has been in vaccines to protect against pneumonia in calves, a condition many vets would otherwise end up treating with antibiotics.

Vaccinal protection

“Sales here have risen 35% since 2011, with two fifths of animals receiving vaccinal protection in 2018. Vaccines for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis have also risen by 50% during the same period.”

Mr Armstrong explains that the increasing trend for respiratory disease prevention is particularly relevant at this time of year as cattle head into the high-risk, high-stress period around weaning and winter housing.

Growth rates

“Prevention is definitely better than cure. Heading off infection with careful nutrition, good ventilation and appropriate vaccination will also increase growth rates because animals won’t need to divert energy to fight off infection.”

One in five cows also 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.

Positive sign

“But this could be a positive sign that ‘BVD Free’ herds are now concentrating on biosecurity rather than vaccination,” explains Mr Armstrong. “Either way it’s something the industry needs to keep an eye on – particularly as BVD is a disease that impacts the immune system. This can lead to bacterial infections, which then need antibiotic treatment.”