We were very pleased to have been able to announce that as a sector we have reduced our usage of antibiotics both in feed and water by 36% compared to last year.

The largest proportion of this reduction was in feed at over 50%. The prophylactic use of medicine, that is the use of medicine in feed to prevent a disease before it has been diagnosed, is now not possible. As a result, we are spending a lot of time at present investigating problem shoots from last year and helping them with practical advice in anticipation of the challenges again next year.

While we are pleased with the reduction achieved, we are still very much higher in usage than other sectors and as antibiotic resistance remains a high priority on the Government’s agenda, I suspect this topic will continue to be at the forefront of what we do.

In many cases, the pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics has had some great success stories. Simple changes in management resulted in improved health, better flying ability and better cash flow. Other cases have been more complex, require more work and we are also increasing our knowledge base at the same time.

At a recent meeting between UK game vets we also agreed that next year we would only prescribe the maximum amount in feed for use. Although this sounds like an increase, we felt it was illogical to treat a disease with a suboptimal dose rate which may require more time or with the addition of in-water medicines as well.

We are keen to progress this route to reduce antibiotic usage further, as in the long term it will benefit the shooting sector as it becomes more efficient. However, it is imperative that any disease is treated quickly, correctly and effectively and this still remains our primary focus. The important thing then is to really analyse what went wrong and correct it.

As a practice, we continue our focus on gut health in gamebirds and further develop our range of products to assist in times of challenge and stress. We have had some very positive results with these products in preventing coccidiosis and reducing the incidence of hexamita.

We have also carried out a lot of work this year with worm egg counting and discovered periods when it is advantageous to treat worm burdens to prevent hexamita outbreaks.

At present, we are spending time with overwintered flocks in the UK and abroad and we are hoping to spend some time discussing adult birds and chick quality in our next article.