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Rational use  –  Food animals


This section focuses on tools and strategies for prudent antibiotic use at the farm level.

Interventions to reduce antibiotic use in food-producing animals may be at different levels; from restricting or minimizing use for certain indications (such as growth promotion or prophylactic use) to removal of the use of most or even all antibiotics.

Efforts may also be focused on making sure use is as appropriate as possible, through introducing diagnostic methods and guidelines or through education and awareness raising. Improving infection prevention, introducing or improving record keeping of antibiotic use, and taking cultures and performing sensitivity testing prior to antibiotic use are some examples of possible areas to work in.

Close link to infection prevention

Improved animal health is often the base needed to be able to optimize antibiotic use. This includes good hygiene, good nutrition, biosecurity, use of vaccines and to optimize housing conditions. The level of animal health is a result of the management of a wide range of factors, which can be grouped as animal specific, husbandry system-dependent and management-dependent. The EPRUMA best practice framework for the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals provides building blocks that can help a farmer to develop a farm-specific health plan. For more information, see PREVENT INFECTION – Food animals.

Antibiotic treatment

Animals still get sick even with high level of animal husbandry practices. When antibiotic treatment is indicated, it should ideally be used as targeted treatment based on clinical diagnosis and, whenever possible, on the results of microbiological susceptibility tests, and using an antibiotic agent of as narrow-spectrum as possible. Several guidelines on prudent antibiotic use have been published by different stakeholders.

Questions to ask before initiating an antibiotic treatment to ensure that the treatment is justified:

  • Does the disease need antibacterial treatment or are there other options besides antibacterial treatment?
  • Will the potential risk of inducing resistance outweigh the benefit of treatment?
  • Will the antibiotic treatment work against the causative pathogen?
  • Will the antibiotic treatment pose risks to public health?

Evaluate appropriateness of use

Components to consider to evaluate appropriate use of antibiotics in food animal production:

  • Application of measures to improve animal health
  • Record keeping of all antibiotic use that includes (if applicable): name of antibiotic, date of treatment, animal treated, dose, length of treatment, indication (diagnosis), route of administration, name of prescriber, withdrawal time and name of person giving the treatment.
  • Regular analysis of antibiotic use records to identify
    • Non-therapeutic use such as use as growth promoter and routine use to prevent or control diseases during certain risk-periods (for example weaning of piglets)
    • Use of critically important antibiotics and under which indication
    • Animal health problems that need to be addressed
  • Implementation of corrective actions to counteract
    • Inappropriate antibiotic use
    • Animal health problems

In MEASURE, you can also access tools and resources to help determine the impact of interventions and conduct studies on a variety of topics that relates to rational use. Includes specific information for animal settings.

Resources below have been separated into the following tables:

Selected Resources

Tools and guidelines

Resource Description
Restricting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and its associations with antibiotic resistance in food-producing animals and human beings: a systematic review and meta-analysis Systematic review (open access) on the effect of interventions restricting antibiotic use in food animal production. Provides evidence that restricting use lowered the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the animals. The appendix lists all studies (2MB) included in the review and provides a quality assessment.
Keeping veterinary medicine records Guidance on how to keep veterinary medicine records. Includes an example format on record keeping (word document). Guidance for England, but can be used for inspiration/adapted for other contexts.
List of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance (PDF) List developed by OIE including antimicrobial agents that are of veterinary importance.

Educational resources

Resource Description
Effective Livestock Production with Low Use of Antibiotics  Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for livestock keepers and professionals in the livestock production sector in low-income countries. Learn how basic disease prevention and rational use of antibiotics can sustain or even increase the livestock production and limit the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
Antimicrobial Resistance Learning Site for Veterinarians Teaching modules on antimicrobial resistance designed for integration into existing veterinary school courses. The modules can also be used as stand-alone resources for continuing education for veterinarians, industry professionals or animal scientists.


Resource Description
Why We Should Reduce Antibiotic Usage and Ways to Do It Review: A thorough review presented at the London Swine Conference 2013, including evidence of a whole range of interventions that could be used by pig producers to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance in human and porcine pathogens.


Resource Description
Guide to Prudent Use of Antimicrobial Agents in Dairy Production The objective of this guide is to promote prudent use practices based on science, and taking into account parameters which are relevant and essential to dairy farming. Also available in French and Spanish.


Resource Description
Improving biosecurity through prudent and responsible use of veterinary medicines in aquatic food production Guideline from FAO that discusses the use of veterinary medicines in aquaculture and gives examples of good practice and disease prevention measures.

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