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Beef industry showcases antibiotic resistance prevention

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The Washington beef industry recently showed key decision makers how it’s working to combat antibiotic resistance.

Members of the Washington State One Health Antimicrobial Stewardship working group toured a dairy farm and feedyard Sept. 6-7 while discussing its antibiotic resistance prevention efforts.

The working group is comprised of healthcare providers, researchers and public health experts representing human, animal and environmental health.

“We believe there is a need to reduce and improve antibiotic use in human healthcare, companion animal healthcare and animal agriculture in order to protect the usefulness of these essential medications,” said Julie Graham, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health.

The group wanted to learn how antibiotics are used in animal agriculture, how much, and what types, Graham said. They also wanted to know the differences between conventional agriculture and organic or antibiotic-free ag.

“The most important part of the story was the considerable amount of work that is done in the livestock industry to prevent the need for using antibiotics in the first place,” said Patti Brumbach, executive director of the Washington Beef Commission. “It’s all about animal care.”

The tour included a panel discussion with industry experts on antibiotic resistance. The concern is that too much antibiotic use will create resistance in human and livestock medicine, reducing the ability to use them as a tool.

“Making sure that when we use the antibiotics, we really need to use the antibiotics,” Brumbach said.

Dale Moore, clinical professor and director for WSU’s veterinary extension, participated in the tour as a member of the working group.

She said the other tour members were “surprised” by the cleanliness of the facilities and enthused by their preventative medicine practices.

“They didn’t really have an idea that was going on,” Moore said.

There’s still a lot to learn about the most important contributors to resistance, and transmission of antibiotic resistant traits and resistant bacteria between people, animals and the environment, Graham said.

“However, it is clear that more antibiotic use is associated with more resistance, and therefore we all have a role to play in reducing and improving antibiotic use – in human healthcare, companion animal healthcare and animal agriculture.” Brumbach said the group responded positively to the level of tracking and veterinary consultation in agriculture.

“Our producers know exactly how many antibiotics they’ve used with their animals,” she said.

Brumbach said the tour is a good first step in building a relationship with the working group.

“It was a good conversation about how we can work together and improve understanding,” she said. “We’ll want to continue to stay in touch to keep them informed of the progress on our side, learn about progress on their side and see if there are any mutual opportunities.”

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