Veterinarian Dr. Leigh Rosengren – Rosengren Epidemiology Consulting from Saskatchewan says Canadian livestock producers are incredibly responsible when it comes to the use of antibiotics in animals raised for food.
By the end of 2016 U.S. pork Producers will be required to discontinue the use for growth promotion of antibiotics used in human medicine and antibiotics in classes for human medicine used for therapeutic purposes in pork production will require veterinary oversight.
The Canadian pharmaceutical industry has moved to voluntarily end antibiotic use for growth promotion over those same time lines while, in regards to veterinary oversight, veterinary antibiotic use is regulated provincially, and the provinces are working together to determine what changes will happen in Canada.
Dr. Rosengren says, in the short term, the Canadian industry can expect to see all new antimicrobial products to be prescription only and more products currently available without a prescription to shift to being prescription only.
“Obviously we continue to use antibiotics in conventional livestock production and that would be true of all of the major commodities,” she said. “Antimicrobials are currently used for disease treatment, disease prevention, and until 2016, there may be some limited use for growth promotion.”
Dr. Rosengren says over the last decade, there’s a shift in antimicrobial use and a decrease in the total net use and a shift to products that are of lesser importance to human medicine.
“The unfortunate fact is that we don’t always have the data collection and reporting to be able to back up those observations but that’s the general trend that we’re seeing in the industry,” she said.
Dr. Rosengren says overall, whether pork, chicken, or beef, the industries are incredibly responsible taking this issue very seriously. She notes they’ve rolled out a lot of continuing education and quality assurance programs and people are making changes in their operations.
That’s Canada, what about the United States?
Dr. Jennifer Koeman, the Director of Producer and Public Health with the National Pork Board says in the U.S. the pork industry is well positioned to adjust to pending changes in antibiotic use on the farm.
Dr. Koeman says this is changing how hog farmers use antibiotics on the farm. Producers have positioned themselves quite well because of the U.S. “PQA Plus” programming that’s historically focused on responsible antibiotic use practices.
“We also had the “Take Care” program which was a specific program for producers that provided education and guidance on using antibiotics responsibly,” she said. “That’s all incorporated into the PQA Plus in the last revision cycle. That walks through those good production practices, specifically working with your vet, record keeping, thinking through when and how you use antimicrobials, assessing their use regularly and then working with your vet on all those other herd health strategies.”
As the industry moves into this new guidance, they’ll continue to emphasize, in their current revision, that relationship with the veterinarian and that record keeping and all those good production practices. It is changing how they use antibiotics on the farm.
“Some of those antibiotics that you used to be able get over the counter are now going to require a prescription to use in water or a veterinary feed directive, which is like a veterinary order, somewhat like a prescription to use in feed,” she said. “You’ll need that relationship in order to access these antimicrobials.”
Of course the veterinarian and antibiotics are only a tool in the toolbox for herd health strategies, so they can help producers sit down and work through his entire herd health strategy which is always important to do on a regular basis.  •
— By Harry Siemens