Antimicrobial & antiparasitic use and resistance in British sheep and cattle: a systematic review

Mathew Hennessey, Louise Whatford, Sophie Payne-Gifford, Katherine Johnson, Steven Van Winden, David Barling, Barbara Häsler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Downloads (Pure)


A variety of antimicrobials and antiparasitics are used to treat British cattle and sheep to ensure animal welfare, a safe food supply, and maintain farm incomes. However, with increasing global concern about antimicrobial resistance in human and animal populations, there is increased scrutiny of the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.

This systematic review sought to identify and describe peer and non-peer reviewed sources, published over the last ten years, detailing the usage of, and resistance to, antimicrobials and antiparasitics in sheep and cattle farming systems in Britain as well as identify knowledge gaps. Applying the PRISMA review protocol and guidelines for including grey literature; Scopus, Web of Science, Medline, and government repositories were searched for relevant articles and reports. Seven hundred and seventy titles and abstracts and 126 full-text records were assessed, of which 40 scholarly articles and five government reports were included for data extraction.

Antibiotic usage in sheep and cattle in Britain appear to be below the UK average for all livestock and tetracyclines and beta-lactam antibiotics were found to be the most commonly used. However, the poor level of coverage afforded to these species compared to other livestock reduced the certainty of these findings. Although resistance to some antibiotics (using Escherichia coli as a marker) appeared to have decreased in sheep and cattle in England and Wales over a five-year period (2013-2018), levels of resistance remain high to commonly used antibiotics. The small number and fragmented nature of studies identified by this review describing anthelmintic usage, and the lack of available national sales data, prevented the identification of trends in either sheep or cattle.

We recommend that additional efforts are taken to collect farm or veterinary level data and argue that extraction of this data is imperative to the development of antimicrobial and antiparasitic resistance strategies in Britain, both of which are needed to reduce usage of these anti-infective agents, curb the development of resistance, and safeguard national agricultural production. Additionally, metrics produced by this data should be generated in a way to allow for maximum comparability across species, sectors, and countries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105174
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Oct 2020


  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiparasitics
  • Antibiotics
  • Food sustainability
  • Beef
  • Sheep
  • Cattle


Dive into the research topics of 'Antimicrobial & antiparasitic use and resistance in British sheep and cattle: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this