FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Use antibiotics effectively and responsibly in dairy production, FAO recommends

Right animal husbandry practices can significantly reduce the need for antibiotic use and thus the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). To this end, an FAO publication provides practical tips to cattle producers for improving animal health and hence limiting the use of antibiotics. The release of the Russian version coincides with the start of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.

The publication is the continuation of a series helping livestock producers (poultry, dairy, and swine) with practical recommendations for prudent antimicrobial usage.

Antimicrobial medicines, particularly antibiotics, were developed to cure bacterial infections in animals and humans alike. However, their improper use (in terms of taking a medicine unnecessarily, an excessive dosage of the correct medicine, or even the wrong medicine as a tool for disease prevention) can lead to a situation where these substances stop functioning. This is called antimicrobial resistance.

Under the motto “Handle antimicrobials with care,” FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) call on everyone to join the world-wide awareness week and become champions of antimicrobial resistance.

Globally, more antibiotics are used for livestock than for humans. Since resistant bacteria can move from cattle to humans via direct contact or food, our common interest is to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock to lessen the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, too.

“In these publications, we recommend three main measures to prevent infectious diseases on a farm: good animal husbandry as the basis for robust and healthy animals; effective biosecurity as a broad-range filter for keeping diseases out of farm gates; and vaccinations to protect animals against specific diseases,” commented Eran Raizman, senior FAO animal health expert.

In practice, in the case of dairy farming for example, these require attention to feed quantity and quality, cows’ welfare and comfort, good care of calves, milking routines, the use of artificial insemination, quarantine for new animals, as well as vaccination for diseases that are present in that region.

Some of the disease prevention measures in the publication require additional investments and costs, whereas others are based on improved management skills. Many will increase revenues in both the short- and long-term.

“Farmers who opt for low antibiotics use in livestock production may gain access to more high-quality markets with better pricing,” Raizman added.

But the question remains: How and when to use antibiotics?

Antibiotic treatment may be needed when an animal or group of animals becomes sick despite disease prevention measures, and a trained animal health specialist prescribes such medicines after a diagnosis. Antibiotics cannot cure virus infections that often cause respiratory diseases and some diarrhoeal ones. Also, treatment should target the sick animal only and the practice of mixing the medicine into animal feed or water that more animals can access should be avoided.

The advice in the publication series on how to use antibiotics effectively and responsibly in dairy, poultry, and pig production is based on proven approaches that have been tested successfully for the sake of animal and human health without hampering the cows’ productivity.

18 November 2021, Budapest, Hungary