One of WHAg ́s aims is to understand what alternative approaches to livestock health farmers use successfully, and how these practices impact their use of antimicrobials and other conventional health treatments.
However, apart from ‘anecdotal’ success stories and case histories, there is little documented research that includes the farmer’s experience when assessing outcomes.
Omitting to investigate and record the experiences of farmers who successfully reduce and/or maintain low or zero usage of antimicrobials, means that the potential for any credible alternatives which may facilitate lower antibiotic usage in farming remains unevaluated.
To redress the balance, and in an attempt to better understand farming practice and outcomes, during 2020 Whole Health Agriculture (WHAg) recruited 221 farmers, mainly from the UK and Ireland to take part in a survey on Alternative Approaches to Livestock Health.
The survey ran from May 2020 till January 2021. The inclusion criteria were that respondents must be livestock farmers and use at least one Complementary and Alternative Medicine/Method (CAM) in their livestock health management.
The main enterprises represented by respondents are: sheep, beef, dairy, poultry layers and pig farmers; many are mixed farmers. The size of farm varies from small family farms up to large scale conventional dairy units of 900 dairy cows (median = 150 cows among 70 dairy farmers), with the majority of all farms (80%) beingcommercial.
Due to the threat of AMR, farmers and vets are asked to reduce the use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials. The findings of this survey suggest that learning and integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicines and Methods has the potential to fill a knowledge gap for both farmers and vets in the quest for better tools to prevent disease and improve livestock health.