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Dairy Industry Committed to Managing Use of Antibiotics

03 January 2014

NEW ZEALAND - Dairy industry organisations DairyNZ and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) say that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) report on antibiotic sales highlights the on-going importance of animal owners working with their veterinarians to carefully manage antibiotic use.

"Antibiotics are an important tool in managing diseases for both humans and animals. Ensuring their future effectiveness is in everyone's interest. The dairy industry's position on antibiotic use is to use as little as possible without compromising animal welfare," says DCANZ Executive Officer, Kimberly Crewther.

"Prevention is the best approach and the New Zealand dairy industry has a strong focus on animal health management systems that prevent the occurrence of disease. This is especially the case for the key areas of lameness and mastitis," she says.

DairyNZ's Chief Scientist Dr Eric Hillerton says the mastitis rate in the New Zealand dairy herd is less than half that reported from the USA and a quarter of that in the UK.

Somatic cells are an indicator for both mastitis and milk quality and this season (2013/2014) New Zealand is on target to achieve its highest quality standard ever, based on the international method of cell count.

"Animal health management is a partnership between dairy farmers and their veterinarians. All treatments are recorded and the records of use are independently audited annually as part of the dairy processors requirements to manage milk quality risks and ensure only healthy animals contribute to milk supply," he says.

"Prudent use of antibiotics prescribed by veterinarians, along with key disease prevention and treatment strategies, is essential to minimise disease and safeguard animal welfare. The national mastitis control programmes developed and implemented by DairyNZ and industry partners ensure the quality of milk supplied from farms is world leading," says Dr Hillerton.

"DairyNZ has worked with the International Dairy Federation to produce their guide to prudent use of antimicrobial agents in dairy production. This is currently being customised for New Zealand."

Kimberly Crewther says the dairy industry has a strong focus on ensuring that antibiotic residues do not enter the food chain through milk.

"Milk from cows which have been treated with antibiotics is excluded from supply in accordance with a withholding period that is determined by New Zealand regulators based on scientifically based risk assessment. Dairy companies manage the risk of inadvertent supply of treated milk through milk testing and stringent penalty regimes. As was noted in the MPI report, industry regulation of the quality and processing protocols for milk mitigate against the potential transfer of resistant bacteria.

"We are committed to sensible and expedient use of antibiotics to safeguard animal health and welfare, and ensure a safe product for consumers," she says.


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