Moving the needle on antimicrobial resistance

(Paige Holmquist/RealAgriculture)

It’s been over four years since the federal government changed the rules regarding accessing antibiotic and antimicrobial products for livestock use. 

A key change to antimicrobial access was the move to requiring that any livestock producer seeking antibiotic products must have a vet-client-patient relationship (VCPR). It also meant that many common medications were removed from feed store shelves and available only through vets.

One of the driving factors behind the change was the need to address growing concerns over antimicrobial resistance in human health. Several years in to the change, have we moved the needle on resistance?

To try and answer that question I went to the person that has taught me a lot of what I know on the topic: Reynold Bergen, science director with the Beef Cattle Research Council. Bergen says that it’s hard to know how much change has happened in that while many ranchers will use antibiotic products, very few cattle ever receive a dose. (Listen to the full discussion, or read more below)

Any change to rules and regulations will always have push back. For many producers, the change to requiring a VCPR was seamless — especially in the feedlot sector, where companies work closely with consulting veterinarians.

For the cow/calf sector, however, it was a larger change. Some of the frustration surrounds the access to vets, especially in remote areas, and the increased cost to establish a relationship. Bergen says this last point can be looked at differently.

“Sure, veterinary services cost money. But simply viewing them as the gatekeeper for antibiotics and other veterinary drugs really undervalues what they can do for you,” Bergen says. Producers can really leverage a relationship with their veterinarian to not only learn about what works well but also, equally importantly, what probably won’t work.

“Working with a good veterinarian isn’t an expense, it’s an investment that can make your operation and more efficient and save you a lot of more,” he says.

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