The Game Farmers' Association

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Gamebird Producers Slash Antibiotic Use

GFA - blog imageFigures released today (24 October 2018)  show that in the two years since the gamebird sector rolled out its voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics, overall use has fallen by 51%, with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed slashed by 70%.

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The figures, announced by The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA), have been calculated in collaboration with Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and are based on prescriptions written by gamebird vets throughout the UK. [Note: All antibiotic use must be prescribed by a vet. Gamebirds are reared in the spring and released into the countryside in the summer, which is why the 2018 results are already available].


A spokesman for the GFA said, "A further year of good engagement by the gamebird sector in 2018 has brought overall usage of antibiotics down by another 24% this year. Together with last year’s substantial fall, this confirms that the industry has halved antibiotic use since our voluntary campaign was rolled out in 2016.”


Detailed analysis of the 2018 result shows that in-feed use fell by 35% this year, whilst use of AB in soluble treatments fell by 10%. The difference reflects a continuing focus on treating actual disease outbreaks rather than feeding medicated rations 'just in case', and also the need to treat some late disease outbreaks associated with the excessively hot summer.


Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said:  “Reducing antibiotic use in gamebirds by a further 24% in 2018 and 51% over the last two years is an impressive achievement. The Game Farmers Association should be congratulated for mobilising the industry, as should the game farmers, gamekeepers and their vets for their commitment in bringing down antibiotic use. We encourage everyone to continue this good work.”


Chris Lloyd, Secretary General of Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) , which is coordinating work across all livestock sectors to drive responsible use of antibiotics in the face of worldwide concerns about antimicrobial resistance, said: “We welcome these hugely encouraging results, not least as the continuing falls in antibiotic use in gamebirds have been achieved through a real focus on good management and improved biosecurity.”


The reductions were also welcomed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance (CA), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.


Jack Knott, Countryside Alliance Campaigns Manager, said, "The whole shooting community can be justifiably proud of the progress made over the past two years, but we must ensure that this is only the end of the beginning. These excellent results must encourage us to keep driving down the use of antibiotics."


Glynn Evans, BASC's head of game and deer management, said: "These are encouraging results due to the whole sector working together. It is important that we continue to keep up the momentum. This year's performance is another significant step in the campaign to continue reducing antibiotic use."


The lessons learned from this year’s gamebird rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of specialist vets and representatives of the game feed trade, hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game rearers in pursuit of further antibiotic reductions next year.










Newcastle Disease Alert for Gamebird Keepers

GFA - Blog ImageThere have been several recently reported outbreaks of Newcastle Disease (ND) in commercial poultry and smallholder flocks in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The Animal and Plant Health Agency has raised the risk of ND occurring in the UK from low to medium meaning ‘outbreak likely to occur’.

ND is the only disease of birds notifiable in the UK other than Avian Influenza. It is normally absent here but can occur every few years. It is a viral infection and kills some, occasionally most birds in flocks it infects. Gamebirds are vulnerable, as are chickens, turkeys and other poultry. Control measures applied during outbreaks are much the same as for AI and can therefore lead to movement restrictions and potential business disruption.


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All bird keepers, including gamebird keepers, are being urged by Government to keep an eye on their birds for the clinical signs of Newcastle Disease. Affected birds may show some of the following signs. (The most severe signs will appear in fully susceptible birds i.e. unvaccinated birds or those with poor vaccine protection):


o   respiratory distress such as open-beak breathing, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
o   nervous signs characterised by tremors and paralysis and twisting of the neck
o   unusually watery faeces (diarrhoea) that are yellowish-green in colour
o   depression
o   lack of appetite
o   Affected birds may also suddenly produce fewer eggs. Eggs that are laid may be misshapen and soft-shelled.
o   Disease may be severe resulting in dramatic mortality in a large proportion of birds. Or it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production being the only detectable clinical signs.
Defra's Advice to Gamebird Keepers and Vets:

·        Keep an eye on your birds for the signs of Newcastle Disease (above)
·        Maintain best practice biosecurity on your premises

·        Talk to your vet if you have any concerns and to discuss vaccination strategy 
·        Make use of disinfectant footbaths on entering and leaving bird areas
·        Ensure you use a vet who is familiar with commercial poultry/gamebirds who can give you advice on disease control
·        This strain of Newcastle Disease is particularly virulent and has not recently been seen in North Western Europe
·        This strain appears to be transmissible even in vaccinated birds – though with supressed clinical signs 
·        Mortality rates in Belgium were 10-20% of birds in affected flocks (even in vaccinated flocks)
·        Vets and gamebird keepers should ensure that breeding game birds are effectively vaccinated
·        Any vaccination boosters should be administered as per manufacturers recommendation
·        Vaccination protocols must be suited to the type and age of bird (injectable/oral/spray)
·        Ensure correct storage and administration of vaccines is carried out.
·        Gamebird rearers should consider vaccinating birds during the rearing cycle


RUMA win prestigious award for antibiotic work

GFA blog imageRUMA's Target Task Force initiative, in which the GFA plays a major role, won a prestigious international award for antibiotic reduction work last week, beating off many rivals, including many in the human health sector. This award recognises our AB reduction work.


The third Antibiotic Guardian awards took place on 27th June 2018. They celebrate the work of healthcare professionals across England in tackling antimicrobial resistance and form part of the ongoing Antibiotic Guardian campaign which is led by Public Health England. Click here to read the Press Release which RUMA issued after their win in the Prescribing and Stewardship award category. 

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For details of other winners and the runners up, visit Antiboitic Guardian Awards 2018 Awards website.

GFA host important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm

GFA - Blog imageThe Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm in late May 2018.


One was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), and the other was for officials from mainland Europe. 





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On 21st May, the Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits. The first was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who in particular deal with outbreaks of notifiable avian diseases such as Bird Flu.


During incursions of these diseases into the UK, not only do game farmers have the worry that their birds might become infected, they also have to contend with control measures such as movement bans and orders to separate kept birds from wild birds. These rules are often inevitably designed for the much larger poultry sector and not always appropriate for game.


The officials were shown how gamebird production necessarily differs from indoor poultry and how restrictions and licensing decisions can help or hinder the game sector, worth a staggering £2.2 billion to the UK economy each year.


The second visit was by officials from mainland Europe working to reduce antibiotics across all livestock sectors. Two were from DG Sante, the EU department of animal health, whilst others work within EU member states; France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The experts included individuals from Italy and Ireland.


Antibiotic reduction is essential to preserve these vitally important medications for human and animal health and the visitors were keen to hear how the GFA is spearheading a successful campaign to bring AB use down throughout the UK gamebird sector. Good bird management and hygiene are key starting points for AB reduction and it is therefore no surprise that during these two important visits, biosecurity was tight.


The GFA hosts similar fact-finding visits for politician and officials whenever they may help the long term future of the game farming profession.

New 2018 Joint Communication on Antibiotic Reduction

The Game Farmers’ Association has been central to the agreement of an important new 2018 Joint Communication, released last week, promoting further reductions in the use of antibiotics in the gamebird sector. Backed by all the leading game management and shooting organisations and also lead bodies for the veterinary profession, the document calls for a further 25% reduction in antibiotics and sets out a five point plan for achieving it.


“A GFA spokesman said, “Last year we led a voluntary campaign which saw antibiotics used in gamebirds decrease by 36%. This year we have brought more organisations on board and coordinated this collective advice to assist game breeders, their vets, their feed suppliers and their customers in reducing antibiotics further. We are totally committed to meeting the new target of a further 25% reduction by the end of 2020, a figure which expert vets advise us should be achievable  with hard work  on all sides but – all-importantly - without compromising animal welfare. We urge all involved in the gamebird sector the read the 2018 Joint Communication and follow its advice.”


To read the document click here.





The Game Farmers' Association

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