By Connor Lynch
Canada’s new restrictions on accessing antibiotics for livestock were to kick in on Dec. 1.
The new rules were announced last year by Health Canada. Some common antibiotics useful for livestock, such as penicillin and tetracycline, will no longer be available over the counter.
The move was spurred by growing concern over antibiotic resistant bacteria. Though it’s unclear how large a role livestock play in the development of resistance, the government moved to restrict unrestrained access to antibiotics, since more usage accelerates the development of resistant bacteria.
Livestock farmers 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.
Without access over-the-counter, farmers will have to rely on veterinarians to access some drugs. Farmers who haven’t already established a good working relationship with a working vet need to as quickly as possible if they want access to any restricted antibiotics.
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.
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, said Dan Ferguson, manager of producer relations for the Beef Farmers of Ontario. 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 their usage.