New veterinary rules said going smoothly

Producers and industry reps say there have been challenges, but the new antibiotic rules haven’t been problematic

OLDS, Alta. — Many livestock producers are adapting well to the new antibiotic rules, according to a panel of industry representatives, though there might still be some challenges.

Discussing the issue during the 2019 Livestock Care Conference in Olds, panel members said more producers are building better relationships with their veterinarians since the rules came into effect Dec 1.

“In my own personal operation, there have been very little challenges,” said panelist Greg Bowie, a beef producer and past-chair of the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association.

“We’ve always had good relationships with our vet and with the availability of products, the change has been minimal.”

The recently changed rules have required producers to get prescriptions for certain livestock treatments rather than buying products off the shelves.

While numerous concerns were raised over the issue, particularly gaining access to antibiotics in emergency situations, panel members said the transition has mostly been smooth.

Dr. Darrell Dalton, registrar with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA), said there have been no issues with gaining access to antimicrobials since the rules took effect.

“We’ve been in touch with major suppliers of pharmaceuticals and major distribution centres, and they’ve noticed no change,” he said.

As well, Dalton said he thinks more producers have begun to build relationships with their vets if they haven’t already done so.

“Producers that had relationships before aren’t noticing a change,” he said. “Those who haven’t had that relationship for whatever reason are going to have to realize they need one for antimicrobial use.”

Bowie said it makes sense for producers to build a relationship. Otherwise, their animal-care practices and production could suffer.

“There is a lot of things in life that you may not want to have to do, but society demands you do it,” he said. “Because of that, you have to step up to the plate and look at the big picture of the industry as a whole.”

Consumers demand responsible animal care, he added, and rules are one way to assure them that appropriate care is given.

“The industry does a good job of managing the livestock they care for, but the biggest thing lacking is letting the consuming public understand we are doing a good job,” he said.

“With some of these programs out there today, we can make it easier for the consumer to feel positive about purchasing products and feeding it to kids.”

Availability of livestock medications in case of emergency remains a lingering concern among producers, however.

Dalton said producers can still have antibiotics on the shelf, as long as they have a protocol prescribed to them that meets those needs.

“Protocols are the answer, but you must have that relationship with the vet first.”

He said the new rules could lead to less antibiotic use, which is good for producers’ bottom lines and human health.

He said the ABVMA plans to focus on stewardship, ensuring antibiotics remain effective for years to come.

“It’s for my kids and your kids,” he said. “You can still use antibiotics in the hospital, and we use them responsibly in North America, but we have to start somewhere so people don’t build up a resistance to them and potentially die of infections.”

Producers in the United States have already reduced use by 30 percent, he added, referencing a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“To me, it indicates that 30 percent of antibiotics weren’t needed in the first place, or they were prescribed by vets and you wonder why they were given,” he said.

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