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Responsible Antimicrobial Usage in Beef Cattle Production

Antimicrobials are used in human and veterinary medicine for the same reasons. Using an antimicrobial to target specific microbial pathogens is an effective way to combat infectious disease, especially when effective vaccines are not available. Sound preventative measures geared at ensuring optimal herd health is the best way to minimize the use of antimicrobials. Practices like low stress handling and weaning protocols, preconditioning, timely vaccination programs, adequate nutrition, and biosecurity measure tailored to your unique operation are the best ways to prevent illness and the need for antimicrobial usage. Consult your veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans. An accurate diagnosis will help you to use The RIGHT product the RIGHT time in the RIGHT amount.

The attached chart shows common antimicrobials with bovine indications categorized by their importance in human medicine.

GREEN:                Low importance – if products in this category are indicated for your diagnosis, use one of these products as your first line of defense.

YELLOW:             High importance – use these products judiciously, and when you’re unable to use a product in the green category.

RED:                       Very High Importance – only use these products when absolutely necessary and when products in the green or yellow category aren’t available or indicated


                              **CONSULT A VETERINARIAN ON WHICH PRODUCT TO USE**

Medically Important Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials considered to be important for the treatment of bacterial infections in humans.

Some drugs are considered more important than others in the treatment of serious bacterial infections, and resistance development against those antimicrobials might have more serious consequences for human health

Categories of Antimicrobials:

Antimicrobials are divided into four categories based on their importance in human medicine. Each category of importance contains antimicrobial drugs of different classes. Classes of drugs are based on their chemical makeup.

  • Antimicrobials classified as ‘Very High Importance’ are used to treat very serious human infections.
  • ‘High Importance’ antimicrobials are of intermediate concern in human medicine.
  • ‘Medium Importance’ drugs are rarely used to treat serious human health issues. For example, tetracycline used to treat acne is classified as Medium Importance.
  • Antimicrobials of ‘Low Importance’, like ionophores, are not used in human medicine to treat bacterial infections

Using Antimicrobials Responsibly:

  • Have an accurate diagnosis before using antimicrobials
    • For example, not all lameness is footrot (a bacterial infection).
    • Viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics.
    • Antimicrobials that specifically target the pathogen should be selected over broader-spectrum agents and local therapy should be selected over systemic therapy when appropriate.
  • Choose the right product to treat the condition .
    • Have a conversation with your veterinarian to help determine whether the health benefit of treatment from a particular antimicrobial drug outweighs the potential risk and burden on resistance
  • Follow veterinary and/or label instructions
    • Use the proper route of delivery (oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular, or intravenous)
    • Deliver the drug in the proper dose
    • Administer the drug for the proper number of days
      • Treatment should not be stopped earlier than veterinary and/or label instructions indicate as reduced symptoms may be confused with a cure.
      • Provided veterinary and/or label instructions are followed, antimicrobials should be used for the shortest time period required to reliably achieve a cure. This minimizes exposure of other bacterial populations to the antimicrobial.
    • If the product label is no longer available, visit the Compendium of Veterinary Products to search for it.

Adapted from

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