Antibiotic Use in Canadian Feedlots

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 22, 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



September’s column summarized a Beef Cluster project that evaluated antibiotic use in Western Canadian cow-calf operations. Nearly all cow-calf farms used antibiotics, but very few animals were treated, and most of the antibiotics used were not related to the antibiotics most commonly used in humans. But when it comes to antibiotic use in the beef industry, most of the attention is focused on the feedlot sector.

Until recently, the best Canadian feedlot antibiotic use information came from a small 2006 project (Antimicrobial Resistance in Escherichia coli Recovered from Feedlot Cattle and Associations with Antimicrobial Use, PLoS ONE 10: e0143995). Antibiotic use practices change over time, so a Beef Science Cluster 2 project updated and expanded this knowledge. Continue reading

Are Ionophores a Risk for Antimicrobial Resistance?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2015?issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



Last month’s column talked about Health Canada’s initiative to phase out growth promotion claims for medically important antibiotics by December 2016. This will impact three antibiotics (tetracycline, sulfamethazine and neomycin) that have growth promotion claims in beef cattle in Canada. It will not affect ionophore antibiotics like Rumensin, Bovatec, or Posistac. Ionophores are used widely in in beef production because they reduce methane production, allow the rumen to use feed energy and protein more efficiently, reduce the risk of bloat, acidosis and liver abscesses, and help prevent coccidiosis. Ionophores are not used in human medicine, so they are not considered to be medically important. They are also not a concern from an antimicrobial resistance perspective. Here’s why.

Ionophores have a very unique way of killing bacteria. The rumen has a Continue reading

Do antimicrobial growth promoters really improve performance, or just improve health?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Ionophores (Rumensin, Bovatec, Posistac) are not medically important because the ionophores approved for use in cattle are not used in human medicine. Other antimicrobials used in livestock are medically important. Concerns around antimicrobial resistance in both human and veterinary medicine have led to increased scrutiny regarding how medically important antimicrobials are used in livestock production. In response, pharmaceutical companies throughout North America are removing production claims (i.e. growth and feed efficiency) from products containing medically important antimicrobials. Some of these products also have health claims, but four Canadian products only have production claims (two Aureo S-700G products, Chlor S-700, and Neo-Terramycin). These products may disappear unless the companies pursue new health-related label claims.

But do medically important antimicrobials really promote growth? Or do they just keep calves healthy, which grow better than sick calves? Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Dr. Kim Stanford led a research project Continue reading

Denmark shows impact of banning growth promoting antimicrobial use in cattle

Antimicrobial resistance has become a highly charged issue.? Headlines appear in the news on a regular basis suggesting that antibiotics are becoming less effective in humans and farmers are to blame.

Some concerns have been raised that antimicrobial use in livestock leads to antimicrobial resistance and that some of the products used in food animals are closely related to antimicrobials that are important in human health. It’s also been questioned whether Continue reading

Explaining Growth Promotants Used in Feedlot Cattle

Feed efficiency in cattle can make or break profitability in the feeding sector, and has environmental implications. The costs of buying a calf and the feed needed to finish it are the two largest variable expenses facing the beef cattle feeding sector. Feed costs are higher than ever because of poor growing conditions in major grain producing countries, because of the use of feed grains in ethanol production, and because of increasing competition of land for crop production versus urban development.



Growth promotants are among the many sophisticated tools used by feedlots and other producers to raise more beef, more rapidly, using less feed, while maintaining high standards of animal health, carcass quality and food safety. Growth promotants include ionophores, growth implants, and beta-agonists. A number of products within each category are approved for use by Health Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate. Continue reading