By Connor Lynch
OTTAWA — With new rules coming into effect next year, it’s time to cultivate a good relationship with your vet.
The Canadian Animal Health Coalition sent out a reminder to farmers last month, warning them Health Canada is changing the rules regarding some common livestock antibiotics. Currently, livestock can be given plenty of antibiotics without a prescription; drugs like penicillin and tetracycline are available over the counter for producers.
But with growing concern from regulators and medical professionals about anti-microbial resistance (AMR), where bacteria and pathogens develop resistance to antibiotics, the government agency is moving to curb unrestricted access to antibiotics.
Livestock farmers have had been in a unique situation for a long time regarding antibiotic use, said Guelph-based veterinarian Rob Tremblay. “Livestock are about the only industry where you could simply buy antibiotics and use them on animals,” he said.
The drugs were organized into four categories, depending on how relevant they are to human medicine and what other drugs are available. Drugs in categories 1, 2, and 3 used to be largely available over the counter, and will now require a prescription for producers to get. There are no restrictions being added onto category four drugs.
Imports of the drugs became illegal for farmers last month. But the prescription requirement doesn’t take effect until Dec. 1, 2018, so livestock farmers have plenty of time to prepare for it.
That means cultivating a relationship with your local vet, and getting set up with some staple drugs in advance, said Dan Ferguson, manager of producer relations for the Beef Farmers of Ontario.
It’ll mean extra costs for producers and potential frustrations if farmers can’t get hold of a vet in an emergency, but should be manageable for most, he said. For the most part, the BFO is in favour of the changes, he said, saying that with the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it’s good to manage the usage of antibiotics.