Information for livestock owners
"Antibiotic resistant infections are the most significant current threat to human and animal health. Unless we collectively manage the use of these essential medicines effectively we will be unable to treat significant bacterial infections in the future with the resulting disease, food safety and animal welfare implications."
Dr Charles Milne, Chief Veterinary Officer for Victoria
Livestock owners have a part to play in the prevention of antibiotic resistant infections.
Antibiotic resistant infections occur when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, meaning some infections may be impossible to treat.
Antibiotic resistant infections will increase if antibiotics are used inappropriately so if your animals are prescribed antibiotics, follow the directions, finish the prescription, and don’t use on other animals.
Very few new antibiotics are being developed, so all users of antibiotics have an important role to play in reducing the risks.
You and your animals may catch antibiotic resistant bacteria from each other, meaning antibiotics may not work the next time you get sick.
Follow your vet’s advice on the best treatment for your animals – antibiotics aren’t always the answer and using them properly can mean additional testing costs.
What can I do?
You are in a unique position as a livestock owner. Misuse of antibiotics on farm can have significant effects further along the supply chain, affecting many consumers.
You can minimise reliance on antibiotics by several means, including maintaining the general health of your animals, ensuring housing, feed and bedding is clean, vaccinating against preventable diseases, practicing good hygiene and biosecurity, and engaging expertise to develop herd/flock health plans.
If animals in you herd or flock become sick you should isolate those from healthy individuals and consult your veterinarian early, who will be able to assess your animals and their need, or otherwise, for treatment with antibiotics.
Remember, antibiotics don't work against viral infections like flu.
You can discuss with your veterinarian about undertaking further laboratory testing (culture and sensitivity) to ensure that antibiotic treatments provided will give the most effective and fastest outcome. There will be a cost for this process but it has the potential to provide a better outcome for your animals.
Follow the advice of your veterinarian, including when they do not recommend antibiotics and may suggest a careful monitor and wait approach to treating your animals.
You, and your workers and family, should practice good hygiene around your farm during and after handling livestock and their products. Ensure that your clothes and boots are cleaned and disinfected, and regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
You should not use or source antibiotics from persons other than your veterinarian. Be aware that there is an increasing problem globally with drug fraud, whereby illicit suppliers are supplying ineffective, or lower dose, alternatives to the drugs that are advertised.
Further practical tips
The Australian Veterinary Association and Animal Medicines Australia has 10 practical recommendations a practical that livestock and horse owners can follow.
Similarly, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations provides 10 practical tips that farmers can follow.
Become an Antibiotic Guardian!
Sign up online and take a pledge to do your part to reduce the likelihood of encouraging and spreading antibiotic resistance. Communicate your commitment on social media and to staff, family and friends.
To become and Antibiotic Guardian, visit the antibiotic guardian website.
What is my industry doing to tackle the problem?
National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy
Australia launched its first ever National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy (2015-2019) bringing the medical, veterinary, consumer, government and agricultural sectors together to coordinate responses to antimicrobial resistant infections.
It is jointly led by the Australian Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer, and has seven main objectives to:
- increase AMR awareness
- implement stewardships
- develop national surveillance
- improve infection prevention and control
- agree on a national research agenda
- strengthen partnerships and collaboration
- establish governance arrangements.
The strategy was complemented by an Implementation Plan and Progress Report for the first two years.
Livestock industry sectors
Australian livestock industries have developed and published a Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Livestock Industries document that addresses actions that are underway or planned in the pork, poultry, red meat and dairy sectors. The document outlines the policy towards and use of antimicrobials in these sectors.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week
In November each year, the World Health Organisation promotes World Antibiotic Awareness Week, including providing educational materials to pet owners via its website.
The week is also promoted in Australia by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
Visit these websites for more information and for details of activities happening in your area, to download resources and for suggestions to follow on social media for regular updates.
The Working together towards responsible antimicrobial use video contains more information about the causes and effects of antibiotic resistant infections in humans, which are applicable to animals too
What is happening globally to tackle the problem?
Antibiotic resistant infections are an international challenge. No country can address this serious threat alone.
The World Health Organisation, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations have formed a tripartite alliance to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistant infections amongst human, animal and plant health sectors.
Globally, industry and vets are increasingly recognise the importance of tackling antibiotic resistance and the FAO has videos that show case studies from around the globe, for example:
UK vets and farmers working together
Visit the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations information pages for more information and resources.
Visit the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) information pages for more information and resources.
Visit the Safer Care Victoria antimicrobial stewardship information pages for resources centred on human health.
Visit the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care antimicrobial stewardship initiative for more information and resources centred on antimicrobial stewardship for human health.
Visit the World Health Organisation pages for more information and resources, centred on human health.