Reducing Use of Veterinary Medicines (PhD)


Despite increasing pressure to reduce antimicrobial use (AMU), many UK dairy farms still rely on  antimicrobials  to  maintain  a  healthy  herd.  This  research aimed  to assess  the  potential of peer-to-peer support through Farmer Action Groups (FAGs) to achieve practical, farmer-led changes to reduce AMU and improve herd health and welfare. FAGs-based on the 'Stable Schools' model used widely in Denmark-harnessed local-level experience and expertise to solve the challenge of reducing AMU. 

Study population: 30 diverse dairy farms in Five FAGs across South West England, over 2 year study period.

Key findings:

  • Afarmer-led approach was successful in supporting and encouraging a change in  practice  around  AMU  on  all  participating  dairy  farms.
  • All  farms implemented  at  least  one  recommendation  from  their  Action  Plan with an average  54.3% of  recommendations  were  implemented.
  • Many recommendations were still ongoing at the end of the study.
  • The majority of participating farms (n=27)  reduced  or  eliminated  use  of  highest  priority  critically  important  antimicrobials (HPCIAs)  over  the  2  years. 
  • Participants  spoke  highly  of  the  project  and  benefited  from  the sharing of knowledge at each meeting. 
  • Farm  walks  and  facilitated  discussions  empowered  farmers  to  change practices and farmers gained confidence from the group learning experience.
  • The FAGs developed a sense of solidarity from going through a process of change together.
  • Knowledge gaps were identified by  farmers regarding how their practices around AMU could contribute to AMR, the different types of antimicrobials used  and  particularly  which  were  HPCIAs. 
  • The  project  stimulated  an increase  in  herd  health  discussions  between  farmers  and  veterinarians  as  a  result  of  the knowledge mobilisation in the FAGs. 
  • FAGs contributed to a shift away from HPCIAs.
  • There is potential for this approach to be scaled-up across the country. 

For further information the report is available.

Project code:
01 January 2016 - 15 May 2019
AHDB sector cost:
Total project value:
Project leader:
University of Bristol


41110023 final report 2019

About this project

The problem:

Pressures to reduce medicines, particularly antimicrobials, used in food animals are likely to increase from consumers and policy makers, including retailers. To address the challenge of more responsible use of medicines while maintaining or improving dairy herd health and welfare, comprehensive, participatory approaches to welfare interventions and disease prevention may be valuable.

Aims and objectives:

This research project tested and adapted a model developed for reducing medicine use for organic dairy herds through farmers learning groups. The principles were applied in conventional dairy systems and worked through farmer groups to develop novel approaches to more responsible use of antimicrobial medicines on farm and explicitly to inform policy. This project aimed to deliver the following specific outcomes:
1. A tool for auditing and benchmarking responsible medicine use in the context of the farm’s herd health performance co‐developed with farmers.
2. Credible and practical recommendations for policy makers that could deliver reduction in antibiotic use within the existing policy.