The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is releasing the results of two national studies that examine antimicrobial use and stewardship on beef feedlots and on large swine operations during 2016.
The data USDA collected and studied will help animal health officials – as well as the human health community and consumers – better understand how antimicrobial drugs are used on livestock farms. The studies include details on what antimicrobials were used, why they were used and how they were administered. They also include data on recordkeeping, decision making and veterinarian involvement.
The main findings of these studies include:
- The majority of feedlots (87.5 percent) gave cattle antimicrobials in feed, water, or by injection in 2016.
- The majority of swine sites (95.5 percent) gave market pigs antimicrobials in feed, water, or by injection in 2016.
- The main reasons for antimicrobial use on swine sites and feedlots were for animal health – such as to prevent, control, or treat respiratory disease – although the reasons for antimicrobial use varied across species, route of administration, and age of animals.
- The majority of swine sites and feedlots had a veterinarian-client-patient relationship and used the services of a veterinarian in 2016
The information from these studies provides a baseline for how livestock producers used antimicrobials prior to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule change in January 2017, which makes two important changes to how antimicrobial drugs can be used in animal agriculture. The rule eliminates the use of “medically important” antimicrobials – ones that are used for human health – for growth promotion in food-producing animals. It also requires veterinary oversight when using medically important antimicrobials in animal feed or water. These steps will promote judicious use of antimicrobials, which may reduce the chances of the development or spread of antimicrobial resistance to these important drugs and help to protect human health. The FDA rule change does not apply to antimicrobials that are used only in animals.
USDA will collect the same data in future studies, which will provide information about the effects of the FDA rule change and allow us to evaluate trends. The data can also be used by beef and swine producers, their veterinarians, and the livestock industries to assess which antimicrobial stewardship and use practices are being successfully implemented and where there are opportunities for improvement or change.