Your Reading List

New December regulation will benefit livestock industry

Animal Health: You’ll need prescriptions for antimicrobials, along with a client/veterinarian relationship

Close up of veterinarian hand holding syringe and bottle on farm with cow in background

If you raise livestock, use animal health products, and don’t have a solid relationship with a veterinarian, please read this article and pass it on to a producer you know whom seldom uses a veterinarian as they are the main group to benefit greatly from some of the examples in this article.

There is apprehension by both producers and the veterinarians about the changes to the new antimicrobial regulations. This legislation has passed, some parts are already in affect and some other important parts will be in effect Dec. 1, so best to ready ourselves.

Please keep in mind your veterinarian is not the bad guy here. The new legislation, particularly as it applies to prescribed animal health products, means the vet will need to establish a VCPR (veterinary-client patient relationship) with your farm if one is not already established. And as you read on there are benefits for establishing that relationship.

The vast majority of producers are already doing this and will see very little change as the veterinary clinic has established protocols, a medical record of your herd, and prescribes and dispenses according to the rules. All of the new antimicrobials and painkillers that have come onto the market in the past many years are prescription products already.

But if you’re a producer who seldom uses a veterinarian except for obstetrical cases or prolapses and have purchased most of your former supplies and medications elsewhere, this article really applies to you.

The non-prescription products such as dewormers, colostrum substitutes, electrolytes and some vaccines will still be available at the same outlets as they always have such as the UFA, Co-ops, feed supply stores or Peavey Marts.

Prescriptions needed

Penicillins and tetracyclines are the two main injectable types of antimicrobials no longer available without prescription as of Dec.1, 2018. They have always been available at veterinary clinics but did not require a prescription, whereas come December they will.

I would say in clinical large animal practice over the years these two products have been used less and less. There have been more specific antibiotics used for things like respiratory disease. Veterinarians and their staff will also educate you on things like proper injection technique, dosage or withdrawal times. There are also times when your cattle are examined that antimicrobials will not be used, including for cases such as many lamenesses, injuries or viral conditions. Other non-antimicrobial products may be prescribed.

By having these clinical cases examined, the local veterinarian can understand what is going on in your herd. During a farm visit by a veterinarian, vaccination protocols, biosecurity measures and parasite management protocols can be discussed. Many may have already noticed the scour bolus products that contained antibiotic combinations as well as other things have pretty much gone off the shelves. Again, you will find by working with your veterinarian they can help you greatly by not only setting up preventative programs, but by changing treatments. Most scours cases are caused by viruses or protozoa so most antibiotics are ineffective. You will find your veterinarian may prescribe things like electrolytes, probiotics or activated charcoal for scours cases, again saving on antibiotic usage.

The new changes should encourage a working relationship with your veterinarian. Programs like the BSE program for autopsies of mature (greater than 30 months) cows will get the veterinarian on your farm and the herd visit can be worked in establishing a VCPR. You will be brought up to date on the latest treatments for pain control, parasite control and vaccination for the preventable diseases you may find on your farm. Treatments and protocols are changing and improving all the time as new products come on the market and we learn more preventative solutions to disease processes.

Most clinics have haul-in facilities so the sick calf, cow or bull can be transported to the veterinarian. Each clinical examination or autopsy is a look into the health and productivity of your herd. Veterinarians use these cases to discover preventative measures through nutrition, vaccinology, parasite control, etc. There is so much information that can be gleaned by the history or clinical signs of the case that will be asked of you.

Working with a veterinarian with routine procedures such as pregnancy checking, breeding soundness exams, and learning more about nutritional needs, growth promotion and stress free handling will lead to economic returns. The Beef Code of Practice really illustrates good animal welfare practices and the further usage of pain control where necessary.

These changes we are seeing will help lead to less reliance on antimicrobials and a more preventative approach to disease. My guess is the Dec. 1, 2018 deadline requiring a prescription on all antimicrobials will in the long run make our cattle herds healthier.

About the author


Roy Lewis is an Alberta-based veterinarian specializing in large-animal practice. He is also a part-time technical services vet for Merck Animal Health.



Stories from our other publications