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Food animals  –  Set up a program

Farm animals

The main diseases that drives antibiotic use in the animal sector are common infectious endemic diseases such as mastitis, pneumonia and diarrhea. These diseases also cause decreased productivity. Thus, disease prevention is an important factor both to lower antibiotic use and to increase the productivity of the animal.

There is no universal best practice to prevent diseases in farms animals, as the measures have to be specific to the problems on the individual farm. A possible starting point is to do an analysis of the herd management, biosecurity and health situation of the farm. This will indicate what measures that will be valuable and applicable at the specific farm. In order to evaluate the health status of the heard it is good to establish a disease recording system. Ideally this should be based on both clinical observations within the herd and recording of lesions at slaughter. Data on weight gain, pregnancy results and farrowing rate are also valuable for evaluation of the health status of the herd.

After health status among animals has been improved, changes in how antibiotics are used can be introduced with retained animal health and productivity.


Improved biosecurity and herd management optimization have been shown to increase productivity parameters and decrease disease treatment incidence in farm animals. Despite this, biosecurity measures at farm level can be poorly implemented. Introduction and continous improvement of biosecurity measures is essential for a health oriented farming system.

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity is the series of management steps taken to prevent the introduction of infectious agents into an animal herd or flock. It usually involves testing incoming animals, and some sort of quarantine or isolation for newly purchased or returning animals (external biosecurity). Biosecurity also includes measures to diminish the spread of an infectious agent that have reached a herd (internal biosecurity or biocontainment).

Prevention of foodborne zoonoses

Food is one of the potential routes of transmission of antibiotic resistance. Both zoonotic bacteria and the normal gut flora of the animal can carry resistance genes, and these bacteria can contaminate the meat during slaughter. Measures to reduce the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance via food are the same as for other food safety issues, and includes the whole food chain such as disease prevention at farm, and appropriate hygiene from farm to fork.

Guidelines on processes and methodology for risk analysis concerning foodborne antibiotic resistance related to non-human use of antimicrobial agents have been developed. These guidelines also provide advice on appropriate risk management activities to reduce such risk.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
FarmBiosecurity Farm Biosecurity is a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia. The webpage collects information about diseases affecting crops and animals, and provides tools and manuals on how producers can reduce the risks of diseases entering or spreading. Multiple animal species
Biocheck Biocheck.ugent is a risk-based scoring tool to evaluate the quality of biosecurity of pig and poultry herds, developed by the Veterinary Epidemiology Unit of Ghent University. Pig and poultry
Biosecurity Information Leaflets This series of information leaflets from Animal Health Ireland aims to provide science-based, practical advice and guidelines on disease prevention and control that are easily implemented on farms. Cattle
Guide to good dairy farming practice Guideline developed by an IDF/FAO Project Group of the IDF Standing Committee on Farm Management. It gives dairy farmers proactive guidance on how to reach good dairy farming practice on their farm. Dairy farms/cattle
Good practices for biosecurity in the pig sector This FAO guidance outline the biosecurity principles to limit pig-to-pig transmission of disease and reduce the impact of infectious swine diseases, including economic losses. Pigs
EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Reducing antibiotics in pig farming: Final report This report from a focus group launched by the European Commission identifies three main areas to focus on to reduce antibiotic use – improvement of animal health, providing specific alternatives to antibiotics and changing attitudes, and suggests further recommendations for action. Pigs
Farm Biosecurity: Less diseases, better performance, and higher profits Teaching sessions (slide presentations) from FAO covering important biosecurity aspects in poultry farms. Poultry
Biosecurity guide for live poultry markets This guide has been produced for live poultry market managers and provides practical options for improving the hygiene and biosecurity at their markets. Also Available in Chinese (simplified) and French. Poultry
Improving biosecurity through prudent and responsible use of veterinary medicines in aquatic food production Guideline from FAO that gives examples of good practice and disease prevention measures in aquaculture. Aquaculture
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS: Codex Texts on Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance This document is part of the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice for international food trade. The document compiles the 2 Codex guidelines “Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance” and “Guidelines for risk analysis of foodborne antimicrobial resistance”. It provides guidance for the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals and for assessing risk to human health from foodborne antibiotic resistant bacteria as well as determining appropriate management strategies to control those risks. English, French and Spanish versions included.
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS international food standards (Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance) The “Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance”, ref no: CAC/RCP 61-2005 (see above), is also available in Arabic and Russian from the list of CODEX ALIMENTARIUS standards.
Foodborne zoonotic diseases Information page on foodborne zoonoses from the European Food Safety Authority.

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