Using antibiotics in cattle breeding: BelVet-SAC 2016 report

On 30th June 2017 the eighth BelVet-SAC (Belgian Veterinary Surveillance on Antibiotic Consumption) report was published, containing the results of antibiotic use in cattle breeding.

 To contextualise the consumption in comparison to the number of animals, biomass was used as a denominator. This is the sum of kilograms of meat from cows, pigs, poultry and small ruminants produced in Belgium during 2016, along with the number of milk cows.

The BelVet-SAC results for 2016 are encouraging.

  • In 2016 there was a decrease in use of 4.8 % (in mg/kg biomass) compared to 2015.
    In absolute figures, this means a decrease in the use of antibiotics by 6.9 %, principally 1.5 % for pharmaceuticals and 29 % for antibacterial premixes. At the same time, biomass decreased by 2.1 % in 2016 compared to 2015.
  • We have seen a very significant decrease – (53.1 %) in the use of antibiotics vital to human medicine, such as 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones. This is most likely related to the introduction of new legislation, namely the royal decree of 21st July 2016 regarding the conditions for the use of medicines by vets and persons responsible for animals, that applies strict conditions as of 8th August 2016 for the use of these antibiotics in food-producing animals.
  • Most antibacterial classifications saw a decrease in usage.
    This was particularly noticeable for chinolones (-57.5 %), but also for tetracyclines (-15.2 %), macrolides (-11.4 %) and polymyxines (-9.9 %). For this latter classification of antibiotics, this is the 4th consecutive year that there has been a significant decrease. This decrease is most likely to do with the further use of zinc oxide (ZnO) in piglets as an alternative for polymyxines (colistine) when treating weaning diarrhoea.
    In comparison with 2012 (before ZnO was approved), the use of polymyxines decreased by 54.5 %. Colistine has recently been reclassified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being a critical antibiotic with the highest priority.
  • For the first time, the BelVet-Sac 2016 report also included information about the use of antibiotics in pets (mainly via the turnover in tablets). In 2016, penicillins and cefalosporines accounted for around 65 % of the total turnover of medicines for cats and dogs, while molecules of critical importance accounted for 3.5 % of the total turnover.

Since 2011 (reference year for the AMCRA 2020 targets), there has been a broad, cumulative decrease in the use of antibiotics, being 20 % (15.27 % in antibacterial pharmaceuticals and 38.2 % in antibacterial premixes).

While this is a very promising result, this is still 30 % above the AMCRA 2020 target, being a global decrease of 50 %. The cumulative decrease in the use of antibacterial premixes since 2011 is now at 38.2 %. It is anticipated that by the end of 2017, there will be a decrease of 50 %.

This means in any case that in the coming years (2017-2020) further, vital efforts will be required.

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