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Frequently Asked Questions

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develops the ability to survive exposure to antibiotics, making it difficult or impossible to treat infections in people or animals. It is a growing concern amongst society today, with many fearing a “post-antibiotic era” where common infections become life threatening. Locations that frequently use antibiotics like hospitals, long-term care facilities, feedlots and crop production areas have been criticized for the overuse of antibiotics, resulting in less-effective treatments. However, even with this skepticism, it is unknown how much each location contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 1

Antibiotics play a critical role in the beef industry, safeguarding health and promoting high-quality beef. The beef industry has taken measures to practice the judicious use of antibiotics to dramatically decrease the potential risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported domestic sales and distribution of medically important antibiotics for use in livestock has decreased 43 percent since 2015. 2

The checkoff-funded National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program now contains producer guidelines for antibiotic use, which were developed by cattle producers in collaboration with animal health experts. From administration practices to record keeping, these are tactics the beef industry is showcasing every day in order to produce the high-quality beef consumers depend on.

In 2016, the Beef Checkoff funded research into antibiotic resistance, which continues to be the largest study published to date examining the ecology of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the beef production system, using shotgun metagenomics, a way to sequence thousands of organisms in parallel. This unique study followed the same groups of cattle from feedlot entry through the harvest process to market-ready beef products. The purpose of the study was to help identify if at certain times in the supply process more resistance genes were prevalent. This is the first study of its kind, and the checkoff will continue to be involved in this important industry issue.

In order to continue to stay up to date on the use of antibiotics in food animals, the Beef Checkoff helped sponsor the 9th Annual Antibiotic Symposium. The event was held in Ames, Iowa on October 15-17th. The symposium discussed scientific updates on antimicrobial resistance, how research technology and innovation continue to impact that growing knowledge and how to better communicate to consumers the importance of antibiotic use for livestock health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Antibiotic resistance is directly related to how frequently we use them. However, as an industry, we cannot stop using antibiotics – they are extremely important. This is called the antibiotic resistance paradox. This topic is important to consumers, which encourages the beef community to be up-front and transparent about the science behind using antibiotics in beef production, as well as good husbandry efforts on farms and ranches. Your Beef Checkoff recently sponsored the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s (NIAA) 8th Annual Antibiotic Symposium where all sectors of the animal food production industry and partners in public human health continued the dialogue around the new and developing science of antibiotic use.

“Animal agriculture is clearly making progress in addressing antibiotic usage in the industry and providing key leadership around resistance from a One Health perspective,” said Dr. Nevil Speer, NIAA board chair and this year’s symposium forum moderator. “With respect to leadership, the need for open communication continues to exist to ensure that all stakeholders of the resistance issue are talking with one another. The symposium is one of the most important components of ensuring that occurs – especially given the cooperation with CDC [Center for Disease Control]. There continues to be a significant need for communication focused towards the general public around antimicrobial resistance. This may be more important than ever!”

“We have a responsibility of judicious antibiotic usage, but also, we have a responsibility to treat animals if they’re sick, just as physicians have a responsibility to treat children and adults when they become sick with a bacterial infection,” said Bob Smith, DVM with Veterinary Research and Consulting Services, LLC, a seven-veterinarian practice group that provides service to feedlot clients in nine states. “Whereas antibiotics are the foundation of medicine, agriculture and the food security, it provides the foundation of civilization itself.”

During the Antibiotic Symposium, Joan Ruskamp, chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, addressed how producers are adapting and responding to the changes in the marketplace and continuing to provide a wholesome and abundant food supply. “We are able to use less to do more because of technology. On our farm, we have antibiotic protocols in place and only use those with four- to 10-day withdraw times. The work environment on our farm is ‘do the right thing’ to produce our food. By taking care of our animals, we are taking care of people because we are providing food and helping people thrive. We need to take every chance we have to communicate this to consumers.”

Click here for additional videos from the 2018 Antibiotic Symposium.

Frequently Asked Questions

CENTENNIAL, CO — More than 20,000 individuals have gone online to obtain Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification since online training modules were relaunched on Feb. 1, 2017. BQA certifications are also available at in-person training events offered through state beef councils, cattlemen’s affiliates, extension programs and other local efforts throughout the country. The BQA program is funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.

By showing how common-sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions, BQA helps beef producers capture additional value from their market cattle, and more. It also reflects a positive public image for the beef industry and instills consumer confidence in it. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their market steers, heifers, cows and bulls are the best they can be.

The online BQA experience is tailored to each participant by industry sector and interest. After registering, participants are taken through an interactive training module that can be completed online, anytime, with participants starting and stopping training at their convenience without losing progress. Categories for training and certification include Cow-Calf, Stocker, and Feedyard. Online training and certification is available for free and accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days each week, making it a convenient option for busy farmers and ranchers.

States with most online certifications to date are Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee and California.

To find out more about BQA online certification, go to www.bqa.org/certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

Antibiotic Stewardship: Collaborative Strategy for Animal Agriculture and Human Health was the theme for the 7th Antibiotic Symposium presented by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and funded in part by the Beef Checkoff. Held October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Dulles in Herndon, Virginia, this symposium brought together all sectors of the animal food production industry and partners in human medicine and public health.

Dr. Lonnie King, Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, presented the closing remarks at the two and a half-day symposium. His topic, What MUST Be Done Next: Prioritizing Immediate Actions, sought to transform the conclusions of the previous presenters, panel discussions, and the deliberations of the participants into action.

“We need different voices to produce consensus and cause action,” said Dr. King. Stewardship took first priority.

It doesn’t cost a lot to make good decisions and yet does a lot to move the dial on the reduction of unnecessary use of antibiotics.

Dr. Lonnie King

He cited thoughtful decisions that are made by health care providers and producers about the use of antibiotics. Approximately 270 million prescriptions are written every year in human health, just for outpatients. At least 30% may be unnecessary, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts and other public health and medical experts. Stewardship, in human health, is an effort to counter this unnecessary use of antibiotics being prescribed by clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

In animal ag, too, stewardship is of growing importance to help ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately, judiciously, and to optimize health outcomes while reducing any negative consequences.

“Antibiotic resistance is a crisis in human health, and it could be a crisis in animal health if we don’t get on top of it,” says Dr. King. “After six years of discussion, we can see clearly that while improvements have been made, globally, we are probably further behind than we were in 2011.”

In the U.S., the recent adoption of FDA guidances and changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics to promote growth in food animals has been a game changer for production animal agriculture. However, King says that unless we can get better baseline measurements of where we started to compare with what comes next, we can’t tell how productive it will be, or the potential costs and health impact of these changes.

Another part of the equation, according to Dr. King, is awareness and education. “The public and our producers both need an improved awareness of antibiotic resistance. It is a very complicated issue and we need to make it more personal, better understood, and tackled with a greater sense of urgency. While more studies and research are needed, we already know enough to act aggressively and decisively to effectively address antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. King.

For more information on the NIAA, visit www.animalagriculture.org.