GERMANY has been systematically collecting data on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, according to a joint announcement from Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the University of Veterinary Medicine Foundation Hannover and the University of Leipzig.
The use of antibiotics in livestock farming is controversial because it can lead to resistance in bacteria, the announcement said.
In a scientific study — sponsored by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — the Hannover and Leipzig universities collected and analyzed data on the consumption of antimicrobials in growing/finishing pigs, broilers and cattle. Farmers and veterinarians from all over Germany participated in the study.
In the "VetCAb" (Veterinary Consumption of Antibiotics) project, the scientists collected information from more than 2,000 animal production sites in 2011 and documented the types of antibiotics used and how frequently they were prescribed and/or administered to which types of animal species. Since the types and amounts administered were recorded separately for different animal species, it was possible to estimate the average use of antibiotics per animal, the announcement said.
As part of the study, the scientists determined that a pig in Germany is treated with an antimicrobial agent for 4.2 days, on average (median), over the course of its finishing period of roughly 115 days.
The finishing period for broilers in Germany averages 39 days. During this time, the animals are administered an antimicrobial agent for an average of 10.1 days.
In contrast, it has been calculated that only about one of every three calves is treated with an antibiotic for three days per year.
"The average values ascertained in VetCAb must be seen as the first orientation values for the antimicrobial treatment of production animals in Germany, and they will have to be assessed further and in more detail," said project leaders Dr. Lothar Kreienbrock from Hannover and Dr. Walther Honscha from Leipzig. "In the future, further data must be collected in order to be able to determine whether these consumption levels are stable or whether downward trends can be observed."
The data collected in the study are currently being processed and evaluated in detail, and the findings will be published soon.
A follow-up study in the form of continued recording of antimicrobial use in livestock farming over a longer period of time is currently in preparation. The aim of this study will be to establish the future development of antibiotic use guidelines.
The findings will be used, among other things, to assess the use of antibiotics in livestock farming in Germany. In addition, the data provide indications on how and where the use of antimicrobials could be reduced further.
"Valid data on the consumption of antibiotics and the spread of resistance are of particular importance to risk assessment," Dr. Andreas Hensel, president of the risk assessment institute, said. "Through targeted measures, therapy with antibiotics must be limited to an absolute necessary minimum."
More information on the VetCAb project is available (in German) at www.vetcab.de.