Reduced use of antibiotics in dairy industry indicates progress on antimicrobial resistance

A reduction in dry-cow antibiotic therapy shows New Zealand is making progress in addressing Anti-microbial Resistance (AMR), regarded as one of the biggest challenges to human and animal health. 

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November) is a World Health Organisation initiative   promoting action on AMR to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

AMR occurs when antimicrobial medicines, including antibiotics, become less effective at treating infections. AMR is considered a global threat to human and animal health.

Data from DairyNZ shows a decline in blanket dry-cow antibiotic therapy (DCAT) from 2015-2018, and an increase in part-herd (selective) DCAT over the same period. DCAT involves the treatment of cows at the end of lactation with a long acting antibiotic preparation to prevent intra-mammary infection.

“These figures show as a country, we are moving away from blanket use of DCAT, which is when every cow in a herd is treated with antibiotics, whether or not there is any indication of infection.

“Considering the significant and growing threat of antibiotic resistance to human and animal health, it is encouraging to see we are making real progress when it comes to reducing antibiotic use in dairy cattle,” says Dr Helen Beattie, Chief Veterinary Officer at the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

“Any use of antibiotics can contribute to increased anti-microbial resistance, which means farmers and veterinarians, and all of New Zealand, need to focus on infection prevention and control, so we  can all reduce the need for antibiotic use.”

Helen Beattie says the NZVA provides guidance and advice for veterinarians and farmers who want to further reduce antibiotic use on-farm, whilst maintaining high standards of animal welfare.

These materials include prudent use guidelines that outline broad principles of appropriate antibiotic use and guidance on the appropriate use of specific antibiotics in different species.

“With the right advice, and by working together, veterinarians and their farmer clients can do our bit to use antibiotics only when needed, and contribute to the national effort to take action on AMR.

The NZVA has set a goal of antibiotics not being required to maintain animal health and welfare by the year 2030. “We will need to maintain our momentum if we are to achieve this target,” she says.