Antibiotics usage remains essential in treating disease. It is one tool used to ensure animal health and should be used in conjunction with other control measures to prevent antimicrobial resistance.
The four R’s approach — review, reduce, and replace responsibly — is an effective way to achieve optimal performance while lowering antibiotic usage.
Review of Antibiotics Usage
It is essential to identify the reasons for use, the amount in use and the routes of administration to successfully reduce overall antibiotics usage and requirements,
Therapeutic antibiotics should only be used reactively once the bacterial disease is positively diagnosed to ensure that antibiotics are used only when completely necessary. Antibiotic administration methods should be reviewed to ensure they are completed as per instructions from a veterinarian, in the correct dose, and for an appropriate duration.
Reducing Antibiotics Usage
There are many ways in which the number of animals requiring antibiotic treatment can be reduced. This result is usually achieved by implementing a biosecurity plan, which should ensure efficient management and the highest nutritional quality and hygiene of feed and water, thus lowering the potential exposure to disease challenge.
- Biosecurity: Individual units or businesses should have a site-specific biosecurity plan that is well-established and agreed-upon. All employees, visitors, and contractors must follow this plan, and any inputs or outputs from the site are monitored, which will enable the source of any potential contamination to be identified.
There are also steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of disease, e.g., employees should not come into contact with any swine or bird species before entering their working environment, suitable personal protective equipment should be provided to all personnel, and sanitization stations, such as footbaths and handwashing facilities, should be maintained.
The showering of staff before entering animal housing and before leaving the site is recommended.
- Management: Preventing disease challenges caused by poor animal management and husbandry is fundamental to the success of reducing the impact of antimicrobial resistance.
Simple animal husbandry techniques, to meet animal needs and requirements, can improve overall livestock health and performance, e.g. ensuring appropriate stocking densities and housing with adequate ventilation is as critical, as is ensuring hygienic feed, bedding and water sources. In addition to this, many wild birds, waterfowl, and small mammals can spread diseases, and therefore their presence within farming sites must be minimized and prevention strategies put in place.
The use of appropriate vaccination programs is highly effective additions in improving herd, flock, and batch health. These can help minimize the requirement for antibiotics by preventing and controlling infectious diseases in livestock production systems.
Finally, it is essential for livestock producers to implement the regular testing of the feed, environment, and the animals themselves for the disease. All testing programs implemented should be regularly reviewed, and the timing and efficacy of programs evaluated. Although testing for different conditions periodically is essential in maintaining a proactive, preventative approach to livestock production, the prompt identification, diagnosis, and treatment of sick animals can also reduce a farm’s reliance on antibiotics.
- Ensure nutritional quality: Feed is a major attractant for pests and can be contaminated by a range of pathogens. There is a wide variety of treatments available for feed to ensure it is of the highest quality and free from pathogens, mycotoxins, mold, and bacteria. Preventing the intake of potentially pathogenic bacteria at the raw material level is fundamental in ensuring productive, healthy, and efficient livestock capable of meeting their genetic potential and decreasing the requirement for antibiotics.
In addition to feeding, water quality is also essential to consider. Water intake has a direct impact on feed consumption and should, therefore, be of the highest possible quality to ensure genetic growth potentials are met. Water intake in animals should be closely monitored, as this can be a crucial indicator of an issue, especially when water quality is low. Water from ground sources should be regularly tested to ensure that drinking water mineral levels are appropriate for livestock. Also, water storage tanks and drinker lines should be periodically cleaned.
3&4. Replace Responsibly
Once antibiotic usage has been appropriately reviewed and reduced, other natural feed additives or possible alternatives can be investigated and utilized to maintain animal health and performance. There is a wide range of products and solutions available which work in harmony with the natural aspects of the animal’s biology to promote healthy growth in antibiotic reduction systems.
Many of these companies responsibly review, reduce and replace the need for antibiotics in a sustainable, natural way, offering a broad portfolio of innovative feed additive technologies to implement the four R’s approach to antibiotic usage.
Reducing antibiotic usage in poultry production has an overall positive effect on not just the birds but also humans the consumers. Raise your birds RESPONSIBLY.
Read about Biosecurity in poultry
Lucy Brimble: Feed Strategy, 2019.
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