GERMANY - At the Animal Health Event in Hanover, the focus was on the future use of antibiotics for food animals and how best to achieve the optimum health and well-being of the animals.
Antibiotic use in veterinary medicine is one of the major challenges faced by veterinarians, said Dr Hans-Joachim Götz, President of the Federal Association of Practising Veterinarians (Bundesverband Praktizierender Tierärzte e.V. - bpt). He was speaking at the International Animal Health Event, which was held on 15 November as a satellite meeting to the EuroTier Trade show.
The timing of the event was fitting, he said, as an Antibiotic Awareness Day has been scheduled in Brussels for Sunday, ahead of a discussion in the European Parliament to draft a resolution on antibiotic use.
Antibiotic resistance is a global issue, said Dr Götz. Whilst vets cannot provide the solutions, he sees it as positive that the profession is to be consulted before the next legislation on the issue is drawn up in Germany.
"The law needs to make sense," he said.
The Association supports monitoring and benchmarking of future antibiotic use in order to reduce the volume used in food animals, as well as the separation of drug sales from prescription and administration.
"Are there expandable antibiotics in veterinary medicine?" was the title of the presentation by Professor Manfred Kietzmann of the veterinary institute on Hanover. Answering the question briefly, he stated that all the current anitbiotics are required for therapy.
Whilst recognising that human patients die as a result of infections by bacteria that show multiple antibiotic resistance, he strongly supports the concept of 'prudent use' in farm animals. Among the essential measures is to select the right antibiotic for a particular disease situation, he said.
The audience showed its strong support for Professor Kietzmann's assertion that as long as retailers and consumers apply such pressure to keep food prices low, farmers and their veterinarians have little choice but to take the cheapest option in their decision-making on all aspects of production - including the use on antibiotics - consistent with the law. It cannot be right, he said, that milk is cheaper in the shops than mineral water.
In his presentation, Professor Matthias Gauly of the Georg August University in Göttingen, examined how animal health can be affected by husbandry and management, giving a number of examples of trials in laying hens, finishing pigs and dairy cattle where changes in management have improved the animals' health and well-being.
Finally, Professor Gauly demonstrated that less intensive livestock production methods do not necessarily lead to better animal health or well-being.