Collaboration key to addressing the challenge of antimicrobial resistance in New Zealand

Sunday, 17 November 2019 

The New Zealand Veterinary Association is supporting rural veterinarians and farmers to reduce on-farm antibiotic use so they can assist in global efforts to slow the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Antibiotics are important tools in the management of human and animal health. Inappropriate antibiotic use can lead to development of antibiotic resistance, which may reduce our ability to treat human and animal diseases in the future.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November), is a World Health Organisation initiative to raise awareness of AMR, and the NZVA says veterinarians are playing a key role in responding to the AMR challenge.

“New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of antibiotic use globally but veterinarians in New Zealand want to do more to help further reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance,” says Ash Keown, NZVA Veterinary Manager – Large Animals.

Ash says around 10 per cent of all antibiotics sold in New Zealand annually are used for Dry Cow Antibiotic Treatment (DCAT), which is sometimes used on all cows in a herd to treat mastitis at the end of lactation.

“Whole-herd Dry Cow Antibiotic Therapy, whereby some animals that show no sign of infection are treated, has been standard practice on some farms for many years.

“We recognise that the use of DCAT in non-infected cows is no longer appropriate in an era of effective alternatives,” he says.

Ash says in the lead-up to drying-off, the NZVA will be supporting veterinarians to make appropriate treatment choices. “We’ll be supplying guidance and resources to veterinarians including SmartSAMM Technotes, which are milk quality management resources supplied by DairyNZ, talking points for farm discussion groups, and also a veterinary training framework for DCAT and internal teat sealant (ITS) administration.”

The NZVA’s Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians is working with industry to help further reduce DCAT use.

This work programme seeks to make progress towards NZVA’s ambitious goal for responding to the AMR challenge: by 2030, New Zealand Inc will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness.

Ash says rural veterinarians will need to work closely together with farmers if this goal is to be achieved.

On many farms, good management practices and targeted treatment of animals with either ITS or a combination of ITS and DCAT will result in great milk quality outcomes, without unnecessary antibiotic use.