New Zealand farm systems use very little antibiotics compared with overseas, housed animal models. However, it is sometimes worthwhile reminding ourselves of the value of modern medicines to ourselves and animals.
The introduction of penicillin to society in the post WWII era was a revolution for human and animal health. What are now simple procedures were life threatening or not possible 60 years ago. Emergence of antibiotic resistance is a reality and we know the risk factors that encourage it. So examining our habits around its prescription, use and application is justified.
y message to farmers is:
- Get a diagnosis. It has become a pattern of behaviour that we just "cover it with antibiotics" just incase or for lack of any other option. Diagnosis is not always straight forward, but veterinary involvement, either on-farm or even over the phone should be sorted before treatment if unsure.
- Use the correct dose. For example, for penicillin the standard label dose is not always appropriate and needs to be higher.
- Do a full course of treatment. One dose is often inadequate to clear an infection. This shortened course is a real risk factor for bacterial resistance to emerge. Treat for "two days past clinical resolution" is a standard line. There are a wide range of antibiotics that have different dose intervals ranging from 12 hours to 12 days.
- Check expiry date.
- Explore other options and/or prevention measures.
For example, conditions like footrot, there are things that you can do around troughing and inspection of the infection that will improve the efficacy of your antibiotic treatment or even reduce the numbers needing treatment.
Illnesses that require antibiotics will always occur, but many have a preventable aspect to explore. Veterinary involvement is always worthwhile.
We always need to challenge what we are doing with our livestock practices and look for efficiencies. Our habits around antibiotic use are an important area to evaluate not just for the future health of animals but also for human populations.
We have a 3 tiered system of prescribing prescription drugs. Over the counter, annual prescription renewal and specific condition veterinary consultation. I hope as farmers you understand our need for these processes and you are not unduely inconvenienced when requesting antibiotics.