Antibiotic usage and changes to supply for dairy farmers

As the awareness of antibiotic resistance as a global threat and their appropriate use continues to grow, it requires a local effort within New Zealand farming, livestock and veterinary industries to reduce our usage of antibiotics.

One of the most important ways to reduce antibiotic use is the improvement of farm management practices alongside robust preventative health vaccination programmes to lessen the need of treatments.  The most antibiotic use on dairy farms is that for mastitis treatment.  Focus has shifted to targeted treatment of dry cow therapy (DCT) for individual cows and away from whole herd treatment over the last few years. Again, best practice management throughout lactation and during dry off, and the use of internal teat sealants (ITS) are effective ways to manage milk quality and, if needed, DCT or a combination of DCT and ITS.

The other important strategy is to use appropriate antibiotics for specific disease and follows the red, orange and green light antibiotic traffic light system you will be aware of now through your clinic. 

Many of you will be doing restricted veterinary medicine (RVM) consults with your vet in the next few months.  There are new regulations as of 1st January 2020 that reduce the maximum period of supply of the critically important antibiotics (red light) via an RVM authorisation. If they are required, these can only be supplied for a maximum of four months.  For all other RVM’s the maximum period of supply is 12 months.  The most widely prescribed antibiotic that falls into this new category is that with the active ingredient tylosin. 

Famers are not entitled to have or use the RVM after the period of supply so a new authorisation will need to be completed in consultation with your vet prior to expiry of the current one.  All authorisations need to account for product already on farm (there cannot be surplus supply) and expiry dates (there cannot be expired product on farm).  This information will need to be assessed during your annual RVM consult.  Please talk to your vet if you have any queries about this as we don’t want this to cause issues for you at shed inspections.

These additional controls to the management of antibiotics on farm are now part of sustainable farming practice and the consequence of resistance to antibiotics to global health can’t be underestimated.


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