Antimicrobial resistance in agriculture
Learn about antimicrobials and actions we’re taking to reduce antimicrobial resistance.
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Antimicrobials are used in agriculture to treat, control and prevent disease, and to improve production or growth. However, the global use of antimicrobials in both humans and animals has dramatically increased the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 82% of all antimicrobial use in Canada is related to agriculture (2014).
While antimicrobial resistant microbes are a natural occurrence, the use of antimicrobials favours the survival and spread of these resistant types. As a result, antimicrobial-resistant organisms are becoming increasingly common, making more and more infections in both animals and humans difficult or impossible to treat with available drugs.
Producers, in partnership with their veterinarians, can help to slow the rise of antimicrobial resistance by carefully considering when and how antimicrobials are used.
Key actions by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to address antimicrobial resistance
The concern about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and its effects to human and animal health have been raised by health experts in many parts of the world.
To promote the responsible use of veterinary medicines, and ensure Ontario's livestock industries are well informed of upcoming changes to address antimicrobial resistance, OMAFRA is partnering with both the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Public Health Ontario to lead the discussion with key stakeholders.
For more information about proposed changes to federal policy and the regulations related to antimicrobial use and resistance, please visit:
- Health Canada's Antimicrobial Resistance — Veterinary Drugs
- Government of Canada's response to antimicrobial resistance
The following provides a summary of actions:
Education and awareness
OMAFRA met with livestock and poultry sectors to understand the use of antimicrobials and issues with animal health. OMAFRA made presentations at more than 40 industry events since 2013. The ministry also hosted a meeting between Health Canada and industry in 2016 to raise awareness about pending federal changes and inform the federal government about impacts on the agricultural sector.
Livestock medicines outlets
OMAFRA conducted a survey of licensed livestock medicines outlets to understand the impacts of federal changes to Ontario retailers selling livestock medicines.
Agricultural value chain
In 2014, the agricultural value chain -producers and veterinarians to feed companies and pharmaceutical representatives — attended an OMAFRA hosted Animal Health Forum. The event showcased the actions by the agricultural industry to reduce antimicrobial use , and challenged industry further to adopt improved stewardship practices, including:
- improved health management
- animal housing
Detecting use and resistance trends
OMAFRA has collaborated with the University of Guelph's Animal Health Laboratory and veterinarians from across Ontario to develop surveillance and species-specific animal health surveillance networks. This allows for detecting and monitoring potential antimicrobial use and resistance trends. It also contributes to surveillance data for the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS).
Collaborating with organizations
OMAFRA works on antimicrobial use and resistance surveillance opportunities together with:.
- College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO)
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)
- Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA)
- Canadian Global Food Animal Residue Avoidance Database (CgFARAD)
- Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI)
To improve the health of herds and flocks, and reduce the need for antimicrobials, OMAFRA supported the development and adoption of biosecurity standards. This includes the funding of cost-share programming for producers under Growing Forward 1 and 2.
Promotion of prudent use
OMAFRA veterinarians work closely with livestock and poultry producer organizations and private veterinarians to promote prudent use of livestock medicines and alternative preventive approaches for maintaining animal health.
The Ontario government invests in research to examine alternatives to antimicrobial use in food animals, in collaboration with the University of Guelph's Animal Health Laboratory.
OMAFRA has also worked together with species veterinarians and industry to promote pilot projects to monitor on-farm antimicrobial use.
Understanding and reducing AMR
Ontario works collaboratively with other provinces and territories on understanding and reducing AMR through:
- a consistent approach across the country on surveillance
- research and innovation
- infection, prevention and control
Ontario contributed to the development of the Pan-Canadian Framework for Action on Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Use. This is the first step in the development of a Pan-Canadian Action Plan.
When should producers use antimicrobials
- On the advice of a veterinarian
- According to the label directions for animal type, route, dose and duration
- To treat animals with non-resistant bacterial infections
Do not use antimicrobials:
- When they are not indicated or needed (for example, antimicrobials cannot treat viral infections)
- Out of habit or routine, or without ongoing evaluation of their effectiveness
- To compensate for management problems or ineffective infection control practices (for example, biosecurity)
- That are more powerful or are broader-spectrum than what is needed to treat the infection (for example, fluorquinolones, cephalosporins)
Additional considerations to inform the use of antimicrobials
- Always ask: "Is an antimicrobial really necessary?"
- Challenge yourself/your clients/your veterinarian to find and use alternatives to antimicrobials whenever possible.
- Focus on other means of preventing disease. Talk to your veterinarian about:
- pasture management, stocking density, ventilation
- biosecurity and infection control
- alternative therapies