An­tibi­otic-free goal ‘re­al­is­tic’

Wairarapa News - - FARMING - GER­ARD HUTCH­ING

New Zealand farm­ing is well on the way to be­com­ing an­tibi­otic free ex­cept in emer­gency cases, the New Zealand Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion (NZVA) says.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) this week called on farm­ers to stop us­ing an­tibi­otics to pro­mote growth and pre­vent dis­ease in healthy an­i­mals, be­cause the prac­tice fu­els dan­ger­ous drug-re­sis­tant su­per­bug in­fec­tions in peo­ple.

The NZVA has a goal for New Zealand agri­cul­ture to be an­tibi­otic free by 2030, and said it is the third low­est user of an­tibi­otics in an­i­mals among the 34 coun­tries of the OECD. Nor­way and Ice­land were ahead of New Zealand.

‘‘It’s an as­pi­ra­tional goal. It’s big. But this is an enor­mous is­sue fac­ing us, New Zealand’s vet­eri­nar­i­ans want to do their part to re­duce our de­pen­dency on these crit­i­cal medicines and pre­serve their use for as long as pos­si­ble,’’ NZVA chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Ward said.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers science spokesman Guy Wigley said farm­ers sup­ported the goal and viewed it as re­al­is­tic.

‘‘New Zealand al­ready is a very low con­sumer of an­tibi­otics for live­stock. They aren’t used on a rou­tine ba­sis, al­though they can be used if you have sick an­i­mals.’’

Wigley is chiefly a crop­ping farmer but he has 200 sheep. He never uses an­tibi­otics, but re­calls when he had a larger flock in the past he would ad­mi­nis- ter them to ewes which had prob­lems in lamb­ing.

The most re­cent sta­tis­tics of an­tibi­otic use in agri­cul­ture and hor­ti­cul­ture is a Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) re­port show­ing sales be­tween 2011-14.

It said there were four classes of an­tibi­otic of crit­i­cal im­por­tance to hu­man medicine, and all of these classes had in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in sales. Macrolide sales rose by 25 per cent, flu­o­ro­quinolones (18 per cent), amino­gly­co­sides (34 per cent) and the third gen­er­a­tion cephalosporin cef­tio­fur (55 per cent).

The pig, poul­try and dairy cat­tle in­dus­tries were re­spon­si­ble for the great­est use be­cause of in­ten­sive farm­ing prac­tices com­pared to sheep and beef cat­tle farm­ing, and a higher biomass in the case of cat­tle.

TheWHO­said in some coun­tries up to 80 per cent of an­tibi­otics were used to stop an­i­mals from get­ting sick and to speed up growth.

NZVA chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer Helen Beat­tie said it was partly about re­duc­ing the vol­ume, but also about mak­ing sure peo­ple were mak­ing ‘‘good choices’ when they used an­tibi­otics crit­i­cally im­por­tant for hu­man health.

‘‘We are al­ready well be­low the tar­get level set in­ter­na­tion­ally but we are say­ing we could do bet­ter.’’

Beat­tie said some of the same an­tibi­otics im­por­tant for hu­man health were also used on an­i­mals. The keys to find­ing so­lu­tions to an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance were al­ter­na­tive poli­cies and lat­eral think­ing.

Be­tween 2011-14, sales of an­tibi­otics in poul­try in­creased by 13 per cent, likely to be mostly at­trib­ut­able to the 11 per cent in­crease in the poul­try pop­u­la­tion.

The poul­try in­dus­try’s chief use of an­tibi­otics is Zinc bac­i­tracin, which is con­tained within feed to pre­vent the death of whole flocks, but it is not a medicine crit­i­cal to hu­man health.

Beat­tie said it was im­por­tant that hens were kept healthy. ‘‘But in the fu­ture we need to con­sider dif­fer­ences in man­age­ment and hus­bandry prac­tices, de­vel­op­ment of vac­cines or dif­fer­ent meth­ods of keep­ing birds healthy which may mean there will be less need for use of pro­phy­lac­tic an­tibi­otics.’’

New Zealand vet­eri­nar­i­ans are press­ing to stop the rou­tine use of an­tibi­otics in live­stock, es­pe­cially those crit­i­cal for hu­man health.

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