Vets in New Zealand and around the world are coming under increasing pressure to reduce their antibiotic usage, as antibiotic resistant bacteria cause increasing problems in human medicine. At current rates, scientists predict that by 2050, the single biggest killer of humans (overtaking cancer) will be bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics. So just like the 1800s, before antibiotics had been developed, a simple graze that gets infected could be life threatening. You may be thinking why is this relevant to pet owners, farmers and vets? Unfortunately, bacteria are non-discriminatory and resistant bacteria can spread from animals to humans. Essentially, incorrect use of antibiotics in animals has a direct effect on the development of resistant bacteria in humans. It is for this reason that the human and animal health industries have come together across the world to try to make collective changes. The aim is to ensure that antibiotics will continue to be effective on both humans and animals in the years to come.
Things such as under-dosing, not completing the full course of antibiotics or using them on conditions that don’t require them, all accelerate the rate at which bacteria develop resistance. It is very important that when you are prescribed antibiotics for you or your animals, that you complete the course as directed by vet or doctor.
The NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) announced recently that they aim to have farming free from the use of prophylactic antibiotics by 2030. This does not mean that antibiotics won’t be available for sick or injured animals, but you will not be able to use antibiotics on healthy animals to prevent potential infections. Unfortunately, for dairy farmers, dry cow antibiotic therapy is going to be the first affected. Current protocols of blanket treating the whole herd with antibiotic dry cow means that as well as curing the cows with existing intra-mammary infections, large numbers of cows without intra-mammary infections are exposed to antibiotics. This preventative use of antibiotics has been deemed to be no longer acceptable when alternative antibiotic-free products are available.
By 2020, unless you can show that a cow has had an infected quarter during that lactation, you will not be able to use antibiotic dry cow on her at dry off. This means keeping accurate and easily traceable records of cows treated for mastitis or with high somatic cell counts will become very important for your dry cow management. Cows that haven’t had any infections during the season can be treated with antibiotic-free products. Although this seems quite a radical change, there is four years before these law changes will be enforced, allowing the gradual introduction of management changes.