Duncan Williams  -  How to get the whole UK dairy industry using antibiotics responsibly

Dartington Cattle Breeding Trust
Richard Lawes Foundation

I grew up on an arable farm in Essex but very quickly knew a career in livestock was for me.  I graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London, keen to learn as much as I could about the dairy industry on an international stage.  I completed a year's internship at the University of Illinois, then moved into private dairy practice in South Island New Zealand where I spent two and a half years working as a primary vet on farms ranging from 150 to 5500 cows.  A fortunate connection to Penn University landed me a two month consulting position on a large Chinese dairy farm.  This was an eye opening experience and is where I realised the power of consultancy medicine.  I left determined to move in this direction full time. 

I returned to the UK and joined Kite Consulting in 2015 and now split my time between nutritional consultancy in the South West of England, and national farmer training programs with retailers and processors.  The recent focus of this training has been prudent Antibiotic use and benchmarking, as a reaction to the increasing demand the entire industry is under to reduce AB use.

I am very grateful to Kite for the mentorship they have provided over the last three years and for them allowing me to pursue this Nuffield Scholarship.

I am also extremely grateful to the Darlington Cattle Breeding Trust and The Richard Lawes Foundation for their sponsorship of my scholarship.

With Antibiotic resistance on the rise around the globe responsible use must be a goal of each member of the dairy supply chain.  While much progress has already been made, there remains a huge variation in usage across the country.  In discussions with farmers around the country it is amazing how often I hear stories of family or friends who have suffered from Antibiotic resistant infections.  This highlights the real human consequences of their misuse, and the scale of the issue we must overcome. 

Each processor has its own priorities, brand and customers that influence how it creates antibiotic policy.  Each vet is a private practitioner with individual experience and clinical discretion.  Each farm is working with historic infrastructure, a unique climate, and multiple owner and staff relationships.  Yet each of these individuals works within the constraints of legislation and farm assurance.  How much must we reduce overall antibiotic use and the variation we see on farm? How must each of these elements work together to achieve these goals? What innovation has worked in the past and what unforeseen consequences have been created?

I intend to visit countries with varying industry structures; from tightly regulated and subsidised ones such as Denmark and Switzerland, to more self-regulating countries such as the US and China to see how the various sections of the industry can influence progress.  I will talk with large international bodies on the future of Antibiotic use on farm as well as some pressure groups influencing law makers to drive change.  

I am really looking forward to the challenge of solving this issue and bringing as much information as I can back to the UK.