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Rational use  –  Food animals

Set up a program

Assemble a team

A key to success is to identify which actors to involve in the effort and assemble a team of relevant people. This could for example be farmers, veterinarians, paraprofessionals, extension workers, nutritionists, and consultants from government and academia, depending on the end goal. A stakeholder analysis tool can be used to help identify stakeholders and their level of interest and power to influence. This group can then plan the initiative and find ways to motivate and help farmers to take action.

Plan the work

The long-term goal of rational use efforts should be a transition to sustainable farming systems where routine use of antibiotics is not needed. The multi-professional team should plan which interventions to use and how to evaluate progress. Setting aims and objectives will help the team know where to focus its energy and how to direct its resources. A combination of strategies and tools (a multifaceted approach) is best to reach sustainable results. Some possible areas to focus on are to:

  • Improve animal health through better hygiene, biosecurity routines, and animal husbandry in farms. Infection prevention measures, including vaccines, reduce disease so that less antibiotics are needed. Learn how in PREVENT INFECTION – Food animals.
  • Monitor antibiotic use and resistance (see MEASURE – antibiotic resistance; consumption and; appropriate use)
  • Perform audits and feedback
  • Provide support for treatment decisions through diagnostics and guidelines
  • Train and educate animal health professionals and farmers (see RAISE AWARENESS – Training manuals and courses). Awareness raising and education is important if rational use interventions shall be accepted and implemented properly. At farm level, it has been shown that increasing farmers’ awareness of good farming practices and biosecurity is important.
  • Raise awareness in the community on the use of antibiotics in food animals and agriculture and the consequences. Consumers can drive change in the food industry. See RAISE AWARENESS for guidance and materials to set up an awareness raising campaign.

Specific strategies and tools for reducing antibiotic use in farms (for different types of animals) are provided under Interventions.

Assess the situation

A wide range of animal species that are being kept as food animals, and they are held in different animal husbandry systems. Any rational use initiative at the individual farm level has to be adjusted to the local situation at the actual farm.

A challenge for the farmer is to determine the most important factors that first should be addressed. An initial step to identify where to start can be to analyze the current use of antibiotics and the animal health situation at the farm/s. If possible with the help of other professionals such as veterinarians and other husbandry experts. A base-line assessment also makes it possible to re-evaluate progress and set targets.


In MEASURE, you can 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:

Selected Resources

Guidelines and standards

Resource Description
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS: Codex Texts on Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance (PDF) Document part of the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice for international food trade. Compiles the 2 Codex guidelines “Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance” (ref no: CAC/RCP 61-2005) 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.
Critically important antimicrobials for human medicine, 5th revision Assessment from WHO of which antimicrobials are of highest importance to human health. Substances are categorized into three groups: critically important, highly important, and important.
Guidelines for the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine (2015/C 299/04) Guidelines from the European Commission that provide authorities, farmers and veterinarians with recommendations and practical examples for development and implementation of strategies to promote the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine. Available in a number of languages.
OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chapter 6.10: Responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine.
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. Dairy production.
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. Aquaculture.
OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code OIE guide to development and harmonisation of national antimicrobial resistance surveillance and monitoring programmes for aquatic animals. Chapter 6.2: Principles for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals.


Resource Description
Community Toolbox, chapter 7: Encouraging Involvement in Community Work The Community Toolbox aims to offer people engaged in local and community work a depository of tools and advice for building healthier communities. Chapter 7 for example covers: The importance to involve all people affected by the problem (section 7) and Identifying and analyzing stakeholders (section 8).
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.

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