Self-Regulation Works for Game Sector
The substantial drop in the use of drugs in the game bird sector is vindication of this approach, says Richard Leach, national sales and marketing manager with Keepers Choice
Overuse of antibiotics affects the game and livestock sector as well as the public at large. Most of us know that antibiotics cannot be prescribed as a fix all and, if overused, cease to be a fix at all.
The game sector has halved its use of antibiotics since 2016 and has a target to reduce it by a further 25% over the next two years. At Keepers Choice, 9.8% of game feed contained antibiotics in 2017, with the figure down to 4% in 2018.
Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive officer of The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), has hailed the figures as impressive and applauded the Game Farmers Association (GFA) for mobilising the industry. In particular, he praised game farmers, gamekeepers and vets for their commitment to tackle the issue.
While the need to reduce antibiotic use has been government driven, principally through the World Health Organisation (WHO), considerable progress has been achieved through self-regulation. This necessitates expertise on the ground, a consequence of which is to drive up standards.
The reduced use of antibiotics has seen more gamekeepers revert to a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. This has heightened the need for fit and healthy birds, which in turn has placed a greater emphasis on husbandry.
Whatever the successes, one can never fully eradicate rogue practice, and we still hear stories of the odd vet prescribing antibiotics where others have refused. Keepers Choice always recommend using vets with experience of game birds.
The vast majority of gamekeepers are responsible and have been pivotal in driving down antibiotic use. The days of using medicated feed ‘just in case’ have gone; increasingly, the focus is on treating actual disease outbreaks.
Feed plays a vital role in helping realise fit and healthy birds. Through formulation it is possible to create a feed that can promote gut health, improve digestibility, and attain optimum growth and development. At Keepers Choice we include – as appropriate – enhanced proteins to help absorption and utilisation of amino acids, organic acids and natural oils to support gut health and reduce bacterial contamination, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids to improve survival rates.
Our advice to game keepers has always been never to be tempted to use lower diet specifications and to check that phosphate – sometimes in short supply – is always included at the optimum rate.
Formulations to help attain fit and healthy birds require access to a wide range of feed ingredients – dependence on a narrow band of materials will undermine the validity of growing stock. Apart from essential vitamins and minerals – calcium, phosphorus and vitamins D and E – too high a reliance on cereals should also be avoided.
The game sector has set itself a further 25% reduction in antibiotics between now and 2020, and the GFA has established a five-point plan to this end. It involves best practice in the areas of game management (emphasising biosecurity); prescribing antibiotics (encouraging the use of vets who are familiar with gamebirds); recordkeeping; sharing information between relevant organisations (gamekeepers, vets, breeders); clamping down on illegality (using antibiotics that have not been legally prescribed and/or sourced).
Perhaps the success of the game sector in reducing antibiotics is down to its desire to stay self-regulated. But that only partly explains the story. The game sector is fiercely independent and believes itself best qualified to do what is right by the countryside and its way of life. The unfolding narrative on antibiotics would support this notion as correct. Self-regulation ensures expertise on the ground, for which there is no substitute.