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What regulations can livestock producers expect?

International Attention

In order to control the rise of antimicrobial resistance, many government bodies around the world are beginning to introduce regulations concerning the production, distribution, and usage of medically important antimicrobials, and these regulations are being implemented on national and international levels. In Canada, the details of the regulations are still in development, but initial changes are scheduled to be in place by the end of 2016.

Food & Water

Though nothing is certain at this point, incoming regulations on antimicrobial use in Canada will most likely include complete removal of the use of medically important antimicrobials in animal feed and water when that use is for production purposes only. Many medically important antimicrobials in these forms are currently available over the counter and without a prescription. This easy availability has led to common use of these products. Production-purpose use of antimicrobials in livestock became widely used around the world in the 1970’s because they reduced production costs. However, it is now recognized that regular use of antibiotics in humans or animals can lead to resistance among pathogens, and there is growing concern that widespread antibiotic use has led to the emergence of some organisms resistant to most or all antibiotics.

In response to these concerns, public policy discussions have focused on the inappropriate use of antibiotics for human health and the use of production-purpose and disease-prevention antibiotics in animal agriculture. Following the lead of Canada’s major trading partners, the decision has been made to withdraw all production label indications for the use of medically important antimicrobials in animal feed and water by the end of 2016. Additional regulatory and policy changes are anticipated that will enhance the appropriate use of antimicrobial products in animal health.

Veterinary Oversight

Upcoming regulations will likely focus on access to medically important antimicrobials for livestock under veterinary oversight. This will require that a registered veterinarian determine the medical need for the use of antimicrobials before they are ordered. Additionally, such order for use will require consideration of the most appropriate product, dosage, duration, and route of administration. A documented order for treatment will be required for the purchase and use of medicated feed in livestock.

As most livestock producers currently work closely with a herd or flock veterinarian, these policy changes should result in minimal disruption in the current system. They will, however, see the elimination of production use of antimicrobials, conserving their use for disease prevention, control, and treatment. There will also be an improved opportunity to document the extent and purpose of use of these products in livestock.