Antibiotic enlightenment needed for sustainable livestock production

The University of Reading is offering an online animal science course to raise awareness of livestock production issues, especially antimicrobial resistance. The course, entitled ‘Contemporary Issues in Animal Science’, is an easily accessible way for anybody working with livestock, at any point in the supply chain, to develop their understanding of animal science and its role in modern global livestock production systems.

Those choosing to study will learn that the issue of responsible antibiotic use extends beyond livestock to humans. “A major review on antimicrobial resistance published in 2015(1) highlighted that of the 41 antibiotics that are approved for food producing animals by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA, 31 are categorised as being medically important for human use. It is therefore imperative to reduce dependency on, and use of, antibiotics globally in order to both secure the food chain and maintain effective treatments for both humans and animals,” says Dr Rachael Neal, course tutor at the University of Reading.

The global use of antibiotics for growth promotion in pig and poultry production is contributing to the building threat of antibiotic ineffectiveness for both animals and humans when they are most needed to treat disease.  Governments in some countries have already begun to intervene by banning or restricting the use of antimicrobial drugs as growth promotors. However, whilst helping to reduce use, this policy does not offer alternatives. “Animal scientists are playing a crucial role in finding and validating non-antibiotic solutions to help support animal growth and gut health. This course will share a variety of alternatives available to farmers which will hopefully improve animal health and reduce dependency on antibiotics in the future,” explains Dr Neal.

The course will also focus on how producers can minimise the negative environmental and health impacts associated with using antibiotics in livestock production. “Issues such as antimicrobial resistance are frequently covered in the news but information to help those involved in the food chain is not easy to find. This course wraps up the key topics and offers those who attend a chance to broaden their understanding and apply their knowledge to help improve livestock production practices. This is an excellent opportunity to understand how to balance sustainability and science with everyday farming issues such as the use of antibiotics,” concludes Dr Neal.

Access to the course material will also provide farmers and producers with an insight into how a precision farming approach will help tackle other critical challenges including the environmental footprint of livestock production and higher standards of animal welfare.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.