Focusing in on disease prevention to fight resistance: The FAAST Initiative

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Source: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

It’s safe to say that we all strive to do what we can to prevent disease. But sometimes, even with comprehensive health management programs, disease can creep in. Traditionally, antibiotics have been an important tool that has helped us control pathogens and respond to issues like bovine respiratory disease in cow-calf and feedlot operations. But, what if these drugs we are accustomed to using to treat and resolve common conditions are no longer effective? This is a reality we might face due to antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance refers to bacteria and other microorganisms that can survive even in the presence of drugs (like antibiotics) that are designed to kill them. Resistance is one of the biggest challenges we face in livestock agriculture. Without action, this growing threat will affect our ability to treat health conditions with the drugs were are used to using. In order to address this problem, we must continue to enhance our disease prevention practices.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, together with ACER Consulting and OMAFRA have teamed up to develop the Farmed Animal Antimicrobial Stewardship (FAAST) Initiative. FAAST is an online hub designed to help livestock producers and veterinarians fight resistance. It’s a one-stop-shop for all things antimicrobial stewardship. It offers a variety of tools and resources on biosecurity and animal health strategies to reduce the use of antimicrobials in our food producing animals without compromising production or food safety. These resources are available at www.amstewardship.ca.

As part of this initiative, online learning modules called FAAST Reviews are being developed. Each one is designed to provide producers and veterinarians with simple tools, tips, and strategies to improve animal health and reduce the use of antimicrobials. The first species-specific FAAST Review is focused on the Ontario beef industry.

What’s Included

Calves face a unique set of challenges when they are weaned and enter into a backgrounding or feedlot system. The Antimicrobial Stewardship in the Ontario Beef Industry FAAST Review discusses preconditioning and disease prevention programs designed to set calves up for success in their transition from early life and weaning to arrival at the feedlot. This module also discusses:

  • Vaccination protocols to ensure herd immunity
  • Weaning practices to reduce stress in calves
  • Castration and dehorning
  • How to identify sick animals
  • Causes of bovine respiratory diseases and diarrhea
  • How to treat cases of neonatal diarrhea and bovine respiratory disease to maximize animal health and production

We have also created a few general FAAST Reviews that apply to all audiences, regardless of livestock species, including:

Introduction to Livestock Medicines

This is an updated version of OMAFRA’s original “Livestock Medicines” course. Topics such as the different classes of antimicrobials, how they work, proper medication storage, administration, handling, and how to read medication labels are covered. It’s your guide to using medicines safely and to ensure we obtain optimal animal health and maintain food safety.

Antimicrobial Stewardship

This FAAST Review walks through how producers can work with their veterinarian to reduce the use of antimicrobials without compromising animal health. We can do this by following the 5 R’s of antimicrobial stewardship:

  • Responsibility: developing standard operating procedures and ensuring farm staff are trained for the administration of medication in livestock, as well as treatment protocols to ensure medications are used appropriately
  • Reduction: this covers reducing the need for antimicrobials by increasing biosecurity measures to limit the entry of disease on the farm, as well as good animal husbandry practices to keep animals healthy
  • Refinement: finding the right drug, for the right condition, at the right dosage to ensure treatment success
  • Replacement: using vaccines and preventative strategies to prevent illness whenever possible
  • Review: monitoring and recording treatments to benchmark and identify areas for improvement while fostering continuous improvement

Regulations on Antimicrobial Use and Access

This FAAST Review discusses current regulations relating to antimicrobial use and access. As of December 1st, 2018, producers are no longer able to purchase antimicrobials unless prescribed by a veterinarian. This means that producers were required to have established a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR). What constitutes a VCPR is at the discretion of a veterinarian. Check this FAAST Review out to learn more about how to set up a VCPR, and the other rules on antimicrobials.

The FAAST initiative also features an up-to-date news feed, videos describing antimicrobial use and stewardship, as well as podcasts from veterinarians representing several commodity groups.

Of particular interest to Ontario’s beef producers is a podcast featuring a conversation with Drs. Peter Kotzeff and Van Mitchell, two beef veterinarians in Ontario. Tune in to learn about their thoughts on how to be stewards of antimicrobials, and hear about the impact of Calf Clubs to encourage good management to minimize the risk of disease in these groups, and boost sales prices.

The Farmed Animal Antimicrobial Stewardship Initiative (FAAST) aims to tackle resistance head on through education, collaboration, and engagement across the value chain. Our mission is to help Ontario veterinarians, farmed animal owners, and their representative organizations. Visit us atwww.amstewardship.ca or contact us at info@amstewardship.ca. This project is funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Everyone who uses or prescribes antimicrobials has a role to play in fighting the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

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