Antibiotic use will be in the spotlight of a new Australian dairy industry project which is set to help maintain access to premium markets.
Focusing on antimicrobial resistance stewardship — a priority for the United Nations and the World Health Organisation — the project will start this year on Victorian dairy farms.
Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication previously used to treat it because the microbe has developed the ability to survive in its presence.
The fear is this could make some antibiotics redundant for treating certain infections.
According to a United Kingdom-lead global review in 2016 into antimicrobial resistance, the global costs of not acting could be 10 million people dying each year by 2050 and a “cumulative economic cost of around 100 trillion USD”.
Australian dairy project developer, a preventative health veterinarian and leader of many Dairy Australia projects and dairy farm equity partner Mark Humphris said the outcome of on-farm work would hopefully reduce the amount of disease and improve the use of antibiotics and treatments.
“The group will be a farmer-led group, which uses the experience of individual members to look at farms’ current disease level, dairy infrastructure — lanes, calf sheds, calving areas — and processes across key health areas of lameness, calving and dry cow management, mastitis and calf health and work out ways to reduce the amount of disease,” he said.
“Through discussion, knowledge and experience of the group, they will then support change to management or infrastructure on individual group farms to reduce the amount of disease and improve how antibiotics and treatments are used.
“We expect that these conversations will increase the demand of preventative health services from veterinarians.”
Antibiotic use in the Australian dairy industry is relatively low compared to other parts of the world, but Dr Humphris said it was still important.
There are three ways the Australian dairy industry addresses this. Through reduction — using less antibiotics; refinement, using them more effectively; and replacement, other approaches which are equally or potentially more effective. Some examples of replacement include replacing blanket dry cow treatment at dry-off with targeted treatment for those cows with an evidence of infection. Internal teat sealant also helps reduce the widespread use of dry cow antibiotic.
Reducing the use of antibiotics in the dairy industry would also have benefits for Australian trade.
Agriculture Victoria animal performance development specialist Sarah Chaplin said the project funded by Agriculture Victoria and Dairy Australia would see dairy farmers working together to optimise their antimicrobial use and health management practices.
“Antimicrobial resistance is emerging as a trade and market access issue and demonstrating appropriate antimicrobial use will be necessary to maintain access to premium markets into the future,” she said.
“As well as maintaining market access on an industry level, on a farm level, this approach can improve the health and welfare of the dairy herd, raise productivity, increase business resilience, and reduce the risk of residues in milk.”
The project will be assisted by University of Melbourne researchers and is based on an approach successfully trialled in Denmark and England.