The golden rule for using antibiotics in livestock

The golden rule for using antibiotics and anthelmintics in all livestock is: as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Read our tips on preventing health issues without antibiotics.

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As little as possible, but as much as necessary

Antibiotics are not always necessary for some of the common ailments in livestock. Sometimes, a painkiller and/or anti-inflammatory will have better results. Check with the vet if you are unsure which medicine to use.

There is a risk of medicines being overused on farm, when they are used as a preventative measure or because it is perceived as best practice to avoid production losses, e.g. a blanket administration of antibiotics for watery mouth.

Improving the nutrition and environment of animals will often improve their health and welfare, reducing the need to use these medicines.

Prevention of health issues

Hygiene and biosecurity

Maintaining good hygiene and general conditions on the farm can prevent disease.

  • Keep lambing and calving pens clean to reduce infection at a vulnerable age
  • Cleaning and disinfection of houses and equipment between groups of animals; all-in all-out systems
  • Isolating and quarantining sick and carrier animals
  • Making sure water and feed are free from contamination
  • Take precautions to ensure people, products and equipment brought on farm are not contaminated with bacteria or viruses that could cause disease
  • Preventing contact with other animals at farm boundaries, e.g. 3 m double fencing
  • Quarantining all animals brought on farm until tested or shown to be free of new diseases
  • Applying good practices for waste management, e.g. slurry storage before land spreading


  • Newborns get enough good-quality colostrum quickly enough to give them antibodies to protect them from disease
  • Using vaccination to control disease, e.g. vaccination of cattle to prevent pneumonia, vaccinating sheep to prevent abortion
  • Handling to reduce stress
  • Good ventilation – enough air space and clean air without draughts
  • Keeping age groups separate to avoid disease transfer and not holding poor-doers back


  • Closed herds where all replacement animals are bred on farm
  • Purchase of animals from disease-free herds
  • Breeding for disease resistance so fewer treatments are needed

Useful links

Using medicines responsibly

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