Dechra Animal Health has published the results of a study which found that antibiotic use was reduced by 43% in beef calves treated with Solacyl, its oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).

The company says this means that using Solacyl as an alternative to antibiotics could reduce overall antibiotic use by 4.4 tonnes a year. 

The research was carried out by dairy veterinary consultant Owen Atkinson BVSc DHCP MRCVS, an RCVS recognised specialist in cattle health and production, at three English calf rearing units between November 2017 and May 2018. It involved four groups of beef calves from different dairy farms.

The 258 calves were given Solacyl (sodium salicylate) in-feed on the five days immediately upon arrival at the units (a high-risk period for animals to contract bovine respiratory disease).

According to Dechra, the use of Solacyl resulted in a reduction in antibiotic use of between 16% and 73% (based on doses), depending on the farm. Across all groups, the reduction was 43%.

Dechra says that neither the health of the calves nor the profitability of the rearing operations were compromised. 

Owen Atkinson said: "I was involved in analysing the data and the data showed that there was no significant difference in growth rates or in mortality or in days to reach a target weight in the calves that had Solacyl, compared to previous batches of calves that had followed a prophylactic antibiotic protocol.

"I think this is an ideal protocol for those farmers who are competent, who are able to spot early pneumonia symptoms and are prepared to perhaps treat a slightly higher proportion of calves than they would otherwise have treated. They can now do that with higher confidence that their results should be as good as if they had used prophylactic antibiotics."

Dechra Farm Animal Veterinary Adviser Alana McGlade BVmedsci (hons) BVM BVS MRCVS added: "Sodium salicylate has the same fever-controlling, pain-managing and inflammation-reducing benefits in livestock as aspirin can have in humans.

"It can be administered conveniently to groups of animals, which means it can be given prior to known stress points in animals’ lives. This can be continued through and after those events, providing a welfare benefit and reducing the risk of a loss of appetite and its resulting effects.

"Solacyl can be administered without the supervision of a vet and that makes it a cost-effective and practical solution for farmers that can lead to a notable reduction in routine antibiotic use whilst protecting the welfare of a herd."

Dechra has now published a white paper which you can download here: "Enhancing welfare and combating antimicrobial resistance while maintaining productivity on calf units". 

The results of the research will be presented at the BCVA Congress in October 2018.