Background: Accurate estimation of antimicrobial use (AMU) is important in assessing reduction of agricultural AMU. This cross-sectional study aimed to evaluate several approaches for estimating AMU at the herd level and to report on AMU for beef and dairy farms in Scotland.
Methods: Pharmaceutical sales data for 75 cattle herds (2011–2015) were screened for antimicrobial products and aggregated by herd and year. Several denominators for usage estimates were calculated and compared for their suitability at the herd level.
Results: The median total mass of active ingredient sold per kg of bovine livestock was 9.5 mg/kg for beef herds and 14.3 mg/kg for dairy herds. The ‘highest priority critically important’ antimicrobials (HPCIA) were by total mass of active ingredient, 10.6% of all sales; by total defined daily dose veterinary (DDDVet), 29.8% and by DCDvet, 20.0%. These are the first estimates of AMU for beef cattle in the UK, and for cattle of any kind in Scotland. Estimates of herd-level usage based on population correction unit (PCU) were sensitive to low values for PCU for specific herd-years due to their demographic composition.
Conclusion: Pharmaceutical sales data can provide useful estimates of AMU, but estimating usage per PCU is not appropriate for comparing groups of cattle with different demographic compositions or for setting herd-level targets. Total mass of active ingredient per kilogram of livestock is more stable and hence suitable than PCU-based methods for assessing AMU at the herd level.
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