MAKE Podcast

Antimicrobial use in Canadian livestock: Regulation changes and new alternatives emerging from research

September 23, 2020 Manitoba Agriculture & Food Knowledge Exchange
MAKE Podcast
Antimicrobial use in Canadian livestock: Regulation changes and new alternatives emerging from research
Show Notes Transcript

This podcast looks at the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance in livestock production. Our guest, provincial poultry specialist Amy Johnston discusses recent changes in regulations as well as some research advancements in antibiotic alternatives to ensure the livestock health and food safety.

Jordan Cicewa:

Welcome to the Manitoba Agriculture and food Knowledge Exchange podcast. I'm Jordan Cicewa and we've got a very important podcast today because if you followed along, you'll have noticed in the last little while, Canada has a few changes and has been changing how we do things as it relates to antimicrobial usage in livestock. So anytime we have discussions like this and any time we bring information to consumers and producers, we want to get experts. So today we've got Amy Johnson with us, and Amy, what's your background and what do you do for a living?

Amy Johnston:

Hi Jordan. I am the poultry specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, and I have also worked in the industry for a number of years and in poultry , as a... formerly, as a poultry nutritionist.

Jordan Cicewa:

So let's jump right into it cause no better way to start a conversation then to ask the first question. How is Canada addressing antimicrobial usage in livestock?

Amy Johnston:

Okay. So Canada has been monitoring antimicrobial resistance in Canada in both humans and livestock for a number of years. Initially the World Health Organization published a global action plan on anti-microbial resistance in 2015. And that was really a blueprint of action that was acknowledged by the UN global assembly at that time , for how countries could deal with antimicrobial resistance in both humans and livestock. So in 2017, a Pan-Canadian framework on antimicrobial resistance was published and that was really developed to be a guide for collective efforts to address antimicrobial usage and help to reduce antimicrobial resistance or deal with antimicrobial resistance in Canada. So there's key components of this framework - surveillance, infection prevention, and control, antimicrobial stewardship and research and innovation. So it really uses a one health approach for considerations for both human and animal.

Jordan Cicewa:

So when you say a one health approach, what does that, does that really... what does that mean? Cause that , stood out to me there and obviously it's the last point . What's an easy one to pick up on, but what does that mean?

Amy Johnston:

So one health really refers to a collective approach where there's experts that are in both human and animal and environmental fields that come together to come up with an action plan for how to deal with health issues in Canada.

Jordan Cicewa:

So this was, as you kind of stated there that it was the World Health Organization in 2015. So this isn't old news, this is something very recent. Are they kind of... are they continuing with this? Is there constant growth or was this kind of a mandate and then everyone catches up?

Amy Johnston:

Uh, well certainly this is ongoing. So as I indicated, there is a part of the key component, is research and innovation as well as continued surveillance. So this is a really an ongoing process. It's evolving and we certainly can expect to see changes going forward.

Jordan Cicewa:

Let's get into your specialty because that's always... that's when we get our experts to give us the real good information. So how do poultry producers promote responsible use of antimicrobials?

Amy Johnston:

Uh, so there's a couple of different ways that the poultry producers in Canada promote responsible use for antimicrobials and obviously the primary way is to change how antibiotics , in particular are used for poultry production. So back in 2018 Health Canada changed how veterinary drugs were used for livestock in Canada and particular medically important antimicrobials or drugs that are important for human health that are also used in livestock. So there's a very... there's 4 categories of antimicrobials that are used for livestock in Canada. Category 1, 2, 3, and 4 with category 1 being most critically important for human health. With very few alternatives down to category 4, where there are... these products are used in livestock and they're not used in human health at all. So as of December 1st, 2018 , Health Canada has mandated that all category 1, 2 and 3 antibiotics for livestock can only be used in Canada by prescription. So that means that a producer has to have a relationship with their veterinarian, that any antibiotics that they're using on farm are prescribed by their veterinarian and only in the event of a health outbreak. So , and in addition to this you may have heard of a growth promotant use of antimicrobials or antibiotics in the past. So they also stopped the growth promotant or low level uses of antibiotics to be used as growth promotants for livestock kind of as a preventative measure for diseases.

Jordan Cicewa:

So , and by that, you mean just if I've got a young bird or if I've got a juvenile bird, I'm not... we're not using preventatively and just at a therapeutic dose to make sure that it's growing at its fastest rates. Is that kind of the...

Amy Johnston:

So , preventative and therapeutic are actually kind of 2 different concepts, so preventative would be that you anticipate that yes, it could be some disease challenges, but you're not seeing anything in your flock. So again, you're using the lower levels of antibiotics to just maintain healthy growth of your flock, as opposed to the therapeutic use, where you have , you know, sick animals or known issues on your farm, a disease challenge on your farm in previous flocks, where you need to treat in order to prevent those birds from getting sick.

Jordan Cicewa:

Interesting. Now, you know what, let's back this up just a second, because I'm sitting here thinking as a consumer myself , I'm comfortable with the term antimicrobial, but what does that actually actually mean? I think we should have jumped into at the start with that, but bringing it up now, what... when you would define antimicrobial?

Amy Johnston:

Well, antimicrobials are products that are designed to prevent disease by bacteria, by viruses and by fungus. So that is a broader term, antibiotics are specific to prevent disease. They reduce the bacteria that cause disease.

Jordan Cicewa:

Perfect. And that I'm going to assume that that was everyone was on the same page with that, because we've all been to the doctor. We've all heard these terms before, but it's just, it's important when we're talking about this, because now that we've defined that the next part of this , uh, and I think some of the exciting work that's being done at the university of Manitoba in the, in the faculty of agricultural and food sciences , um, is in alternative therapies. So, so are there alternative therapies in use for poultry?

Amy Johnston:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, so there are some , uh, products that are on the marketplace now or in development , um, at various companies and through research institutions, like at the university of Manitoba , um, these products are , um, primarily , uh, through the feed or through the water and they promote , uh , the health of the animal boost , the immune system , um, compete against , uh , disease causing organisms. Um, and in some cases , uh, will help prevent disease in the animals. And these are, this is really particularly important because , um, poultry producers in Canada have actually taken the, their antimicrobial usage one step further where they have , um, banned , uh, the use of category one and , uh, two , uh, anti-microbials by , um , the end of 2018. And the Turkey sector has , um, as also now eliminated the use of category three antimicrobials by the end of 2019. And the chicken sector , uh , is , is looking too bad . And , um, category three antibiotics antimicrobials by the end of 2020 as well. So these products that are alternative therapies , um , are really important, really critical to help B um , build the toolbox that producers have to , um, promote the health of the birds and, and the safety of the food products that they're producing.

Jordan Cicewa:

And I think, I think that's an important , uh, thing to talk about is that it's with the anti-microbials and antibiotics. They're not, they're not in any way, shape or form bad. We've, we've done the testing and the work to know that they're safe. It's just, as we look for different modalities to, to do things better, we're finding new ways to do it and, and ways to grow the industry.

Amy Johnston:

Absolutely. Yeah. We want to protect , uh, the use of the antibiotics or antimicrobial products that we have right now. Um, you know, we, haven't really seen a lot of new products come on board specifically for antibiotics in the last several years. Um, and so research has really shifted to focus on some of these alternative therapies

Jordan Cicewa:

And , and that's just from what I picked up there, that's just to make sure that the antibiotics we have on the market still work the way that we, they were originally intended because we're not overusing them, is that

Amy Johnston:

That's absolutely correct because these antibiotic antibiotics are critical in , um , a disease , uh , outbreak situation. Um, and so we still need to be able to use them for that reason, both in human health and in livestock health.

Jordan Cicewa:

That's an interesting point. I'm glad we had the podcast just for that point. How, how else can poultry producers maintain flock health , um, in light of the changes in antibiotic antimicrobial usage?

Amy Johnston:

Sure. Well, you know, flock management really remains a key aspect of maintaining , uh , the health of poultry flocks. So this just means , um, identifying risks or hazards , um, that could put flocks at risk of contact, contracting disease , um, making sure that farms , uh , have biosecurity protocols in place. And so this is essentially just outlining , um, the methods in which they will reduce exposure of their birds to , um, to disease challenges , uh , providing good nutrition to the birds and making sure that you're, you're using high quality feed ingredients. And then, you know , lastly it's really important to work with your veterinarian , um, to monitor flock health , uh , established vaccination regime regimes, where they're appropriate for your flock, and certainly have , um, that consultation , uh , that's critical if there's , uh , a disease outbreak.

Jordan Cicewa:

I think that the point that you've made it , it's funny cause , uh , coming into doing this podcast , uh, with, with the faculty of agriculture and food sciences and , and working with the U of M on this, this , um, knowledge exchange project, I came from a kinesiology background and a human health background. And I think it's fascinating as I've talked with beef producers, poultry, producers, and , um, pork, and we've gone all over the place that it keeps coming back to standard operating procedures, biosecurity health of the animals first and ensuring that the care and concern is there. And it's, it's fascinating to me that that caring concern keeps coming up as the number one, we do this first and we'll see great results. Absolutely. Well, all of this , um, excites me as somebody that is a consumer to know what's going on behind the scenes to keep our animals healthy. And, and that there's a long-term plan. So Amy Johnson, thank you so much for all the information and we'll have you back as soon as possible for more.

Amy Johnston:

Thanks, Gerard .