ReLait – reducing antibiotics in dairy farming

The Canton of Fribourg seeks to reduce antibiotic use in dairy farming. Its ReLait project focuses on prevention measures in udder health, uterine health and calf health.  

Forty-eight farms took part in the first phase of the ReLait project between 2017 and 2020. The farms were able to choose from a range of different prevention measure modules, all of which aimed to reduce antibiotic use. From the three areas – udder health, uterine health and calf health – most farmers opted for prevention in the area of udder health.

Prevention pays off
Initial analyses of the project show that the preventive measures are effective and that acute and severe cases of illness were prevented. Treatment with local antibiotics was generally sufficient and the use of antibiotics that are spread to the whole body was significantly reduced. The proportion of critically important antimicrobials administered – in other words, those that are critical in human medicine – was also significantly decreased. The monitoring of farms from this initial phase of the project will show whether these achievements can be sustained.

More does not mean better
Another insight from the project is that more does not automatically mean better. The selection of several preventive measures did not necessarily lead to greater antibiotic reduction. More important are targeted selection and implementation of a prevention module. Another important success factor for future initiatives is close supervision and support for farms. The first project phase has shown that discipline in sticking to the measures decreases over time.

Second phase of project under way
An additional 89 farms have been recruited for the second phase of the project from 2020 to 2024. These farms will implement the preventive measures over a four-year period. Together with the 48 farms from the first phase, it will be possible to determine the most effective prevention modules and to further reduce antibiotic use in dairy farming.

ReLait is a project of the Grangeneuve Agricultural Institute in the canton of Fribourg and is conducted in collaboration with the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) and the Vetsuisse Faculty at the University of Bern. It is funded by the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG).  

Last modification 03.05.2021

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