Antibiotic Use in Livestock Farming Continues to Decline

(March 3, 2019) – If you’ve struggled with a sinus infection or bronchitis this winter, then you may have gone to the doctor and received a prescription for antibiotics so you can feel better.

Sometimes, farmers also must use antibiotics to treat farm animals that get sick. In this case, livestock farmers consult with their veterinarians to determine the best treatment.

“Unfortunately, just like in people, despite all the things we do to try to prevent our animals from getting sick, it does happen,” says Dr. Kristen Obbink, a veterinarian and assistant director of the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education based at Iowa State University in Ames.

“And if we don’t treat (farm animals), they are suffering. Not only does this impact the animal’s quality of life, it’s also important from a food safety standpoint, because healthy animals result in safer food,” Obbink says.

Farmers are listening and responding to their customers’ concerns about antibiotic usage in livestock farming. Their efforts are highlighted in a new report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA report shows that sales and distribution of all medically important antimicrobials, or those important to human health, for food-producing animals decreased 33 percent in 2017.

And since 2015, sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals have dropped 43 percent, the FDA reported.

It’s a significant decline and shows that farmers have made responsible use of antibiotics a priority, Obbink says. “It’s a voluntary movement among farmers and everyone down the food chain – human health care included,” Obbink says. “Everybody is working hard to promote using antibiotics as judiciously as we possibly can.”

Farmers can use antibiotics for animal disease prevention, treatment and control, but only with a veterinarian’s approval and oversight, Obbink explains.

In addition, the livestock industry has voluntarily agreed to discontinue the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion or feed efficiency.

If a farm animal is given antibiotics, federal law requires that the animal undergo a withdrawal period before it can be marketed for processing.

Farmers continue to work closely with their veterinarians to protect animal health and overall food safety, using the latest science to guide herd-health decision, Obbink says.

Researchers are discovering new ways to help keep animals healthy, such as improved animal-care practices and alternatives to antibiotics, she explains.

“Farmers truly care about their animals. They want their animals to be healthy. They want those food products to be high quality and safe. Everyone involved is committed to making sure that health and safety continues,” Obbink says.

Article by Teresa Bjork, reposted from  Iowa Farm Bureau