New Zealand Veterinary Association presents poultry industry with leadership award in battle against AMR

Published on 20 June 2024 

In recognition of its work in reducing antibiotic use in chickens, the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ) has won the New Zealand Veterinary Association Te Pae Kīrehe (NZVA) Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Award. It is the first time the award has been won by an industry body.

Presented tonight (20 June) at the annual NZVA Awards, PIANZ was honoured for reducing the use of the antibiotic zinc bacitracin (ZB). Previously, New Zealand chickens raised for meat were fed ZB along with their daily feed, as a preventative measure against disease. By introducing gut health support, and improving stock management techniques, the industry has successfully phased out ZB as a preventative measure, which had been a major contributor to New Zealand’s overall antimicrobial use. PIANZ says the New Zealand poultry industry is now one of the few in the world that uses no antibiotics prophylactically at all.

NZVA CEO Kevin Bryant congratulated PIANZ for its commitment to addressing the challenges of AMR. “This award is greatly deserved,” he said. “PIANZ has demonstrated leadership and become a great advocate for reducing our reliance on antibiotic use. It is a wonderful example of an industry coming together to find solutions for a problem that not only threatens animal health, but human health as well.”

AMR happens when viruses, bacteria, or parasites change and no longer respond to medicine, making them difficult or impossible to treat. Vaccinations are a critical tool in preventing the development and spread of drug-resistant viruses and bacteria. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said antimicrobial resistance is one of the top global public health and development threats.

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, said: “It’s fantastic to see this award being given to an industry body, in recognition of PIANZ’s leadership in solving an issue of long-standing. AMR is a looming crisis in human and animal health, and we all need to work together to minimise its impact.”

PIANZ executive director Michael Brooks said he was proud the industry had achieved its collective goal of prophylactically eliminating the use of ZB, which had been used to prevent a commonly occurring disease in the chicken’s gut. “The New Zealand poultry industry has worked together to achieve the significant milestone of using no antibiotics at all prophylactically,” he said. “Our commitment has been to help reduce AMR overall, and we are proud of the impact we have been able to make in this space.”

The industry’s work directly supports the NZVA’s goal that by 2030 New Zealand will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness. To achieve this, it advocates that animal owners and farmers work alongside their veterinarians to ensure best practice care and nutrition is provided, and that animal vaccinations are kept up-to-date.

NZVA Antimicrobial Resistance Committee (AMRC) chairperson Mark Bryan congratulated the poultry industry for demonstrating innovation and for showing commitment to the NZVA’s goal. “PIANZ are worthy winners of this award,” he said. “By making progressive changes to management and preventive animal health practices, it has punched above its weight in reducing antibiotic use, and in contributing to our profession's goals.”

“The New Zealand veterinary profession is halfway towards its goal in terms of the amount of antibiotics being used. This is a significant achievement to which all members of the profession have contributed.”

Antimicrobial resistance can be prevented by ensuring animals are vaccinated, that antibiotics are only used when necessary, and good hygiene practises are followed.

The NZVA will be marking this year’s World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), which runs from 18-24 November 2024.