Livestock diseases are 'untold story' of food waste

An estimated one-fifth of livestock around the world are lost to disease. Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative

An estimated one-fifth of livestock around the world are lost to disease. Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative, said that is perhaps the “greatest untold story of food waste today.”

Zeigler, who authored the latest "Global Agricultural Productivity" (GAP) report issued Wednesday, highlighted in the report the need to find new ways to improve the health of animals that also coincides with the health benefits needed for people.

One in four dairy cattle in the U.S. contract mastitis, which is the leading cause of the need for therapeutic antibiotic treatments in U.S. dairy animals. It requires the dairy industry's greatest use of shared-class antibiotics (those used in human and animal medicine). Health regulations also prohibit the sale of milk with antibiotic residue, so 1.2 billion servings of milk are lost each year from the dairy value chain. “Their investment is poured down the drain,” Zeigler said of the milk that has to be thrown out when the cows are being administered antibiotics.

The report points out that Elanco has developed Imrestor, an immune restorative. It is not an antibiotic, vaccine or hormone but, rather, is similar to a cow’s immune system so she can continue to function normally, thereby reducing the chance that she will get mastitis.

Clinical tests of Imrestor have shown a reduction in the incidence of mastitis in calving cows by 28% in the U.S. and 26% in the European Union in the 30 days post-calving — thereby decreasing the need for antibiotics and other treatments, along with reducing the amount of milk discarded during the treatment cycle.

As a result, 43 countries have moved to approve the use of Imrestor, including Canada, the U.S. and the EU. “Embracing science-based innovation will lead to significant gains in improving animal and human health and reducing food loss and waste along the livestock value chain,” the GAP report noted.

One Health is a widely adopted paradigm for public health and agriculture that acknowledges the symbiotic and complex interactions between the health and productivity of humans, animals and the environment. One Health also promotes healthy microbiomes -- communities of microorganisms that live in or on soils, plants, water, the atmosphere, people and animals. Microbiomes are essential for promoting soil health, maintaining water quality, limiting the spread of infectious and non-communicable diseases, improving human and animal nutrition, preserving the efficacy of tools used in human and animal medicine and conserving natural resources.

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, in collaboration with the Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and supported with funds from the EU’s 10th Economic Development Fund, is working to build technical capacity of veterinarians, diagnosticians, epidemiologists and other public health professionals in the LAC Region.

This capacity-building program provides foundational and applied knowledge on the use of antibiotics and related antimicrobial agents in various animal production systems. It helps the livestock industry understand the emergence and epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance in agriculture and its impact on the health of humans, animals and the environment, as well as on international trade and commerce, the report stated. The program also provides guidance to establish or enhance surveillance and monitoring systems for antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and foodborne pathogens. It discusses the development and implementation of prevention and control interventions (including surveillance programs) specific to each country, with an emphasis on minimizing the potential impacts of antimicrobial resistance on public and animal health as well as trade and commerce.

As of 2016, this program has trained more than 28 government officials from 14 countries, more than 300 producers and more than 100 private technicians in how to identify and address these issues. The program has produced several guides covering best practices and use of veterinary drugs in bovine and aquaculture production as well as a report assessing the state of surveillance systems of veterinary drugs in livestock production throughout the region.

Find the full GAP report here.

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