Improving animal antibiotic stewardship from a teen perspective

Youth share their ideas on how to maintain excellent antibiotic stewardship during the 2016 4-H Veterinary Science Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop.

4-H youth learn veterinary science sampling techniques.

4-H youth learn veterinary science sampling techniques.

There has been a great deal of discussion about antibiotic use in animal production, and the truth is, we are just at the beginning of the conversation. To that point, attendees at the Michigan 4-H Veterinary Science Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop held Feb. 19-20, 2016, at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan, had something to share.

Realizing the importance of the topic and the need for continued education, faculty from the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine led a session titled, “Hot Topic: Antibiotics – What you need to know!” Instructor Dan Grooms reminded attendees of the fundamentals, stating, “Antibiotic stewardship is the purposeful incorporation of actions to reduce the use of antimicrobials. It is the responsibility of everyone that cares for animals to be good stewards of antibiotics in order to ensure their usefulness for both public and animal health.”

Attendees were asked to think more critically about how and why we use antibiotics in production agriculture. They were then challenged to come up with ways to reduce antibiotic use or, more specifically, to come up with three ways to improve antibiotic stewardship. The attendees worked in teams to create their own recommendations. Below are the recommendations from 4-H teen leaders of how to improve antibiotic stewardship:

  • Improve animal management strategies
    • Vaccinate animals to prevent disease.
    • Ensure proper nutrition and mineral management.
    • Reduce stress in environment.
    • Be cautious at times of higher stress, such as weaning.
    • Improve animal handling procedures.
  • Practice proper biosecurity (Basics of Biosecurity lesson)

    • Cleanliness
      • Disinfect tools and equipment.
      • Practice proper personal hygiene for humans to stay healthy too.
    • History

      • Know the herd or flock health history before you buy the animal.
      • Ask questions before visitors tour your farm.
    • Isolation

      • Quarantine new animals and animals returning from exhibition.
      • Separate sick animals from the rest of the herd or flock.
    • Proper management practices

      • Observe animals often.
      • Provide proper animal care and prevention practices.
  • Know your animal

    • Observe your animals often and pay attention for possible illnesses or changes in behavior.
    • Be proactive about your animal’s health.
    • Know your animal’s health history.
  • Continue educating people about how and why antibiotics are used

    • Animal producers
    • Consumers
  • Properly administer all medications
    • Keep accurate records (consider using the Michigan 4-H Animal Treatment Record Sheet).
    • Teach people how to properly inject an antibiotic (Livestock Injection Methods and Placement lesson).
    • Following exact label directions.
    • If you are uncertain about the diagnosis, call your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
    • If prescribed by a veterinarian, follow the exact instructions (dosage/time/etc.).
    • Consider only using antibiotics if the illness cannot be treated systematically.
    • Consider using natural remedies when effective.
    • Store all medication properly and out of reach of those not able give medications.

Group at workshop

Practicing proper biosecurity measures is essential to help minimize the need for antibiotics.

With these strategies, the attendees hope to help improve their antibiotic stewardship as well as provide ideas for other animal producers to do the same. MSU Extension is working closely with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to help everyone work through the upcoming Veterinary Feed Directive changes, from producers to 4-H families. More resources for producers, retailers and mills as well as veterinarians are available at MDARD’s Veterinary Feed Directive webpage.

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