As of December 1, 2018, livestock producers will need a veterinary prescription to access medically important antimicrobials. Due to changes by Health Canada, these antimicrobials will no longer be sold at authorized medicine sales outlets (e.g. farm supply stores). Producers will only be able to access them through veterinary clinics, pharmacies or mixes in feed from commercial feed mills.
Requirements are changing for veterinarians as well. The second edition of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association Prescribing and Dispensing Handbook was published to help prepare veterinary practices for their role in implementing the Health Canada's initiatives. The handbook is a clear and helpful resource for producers in understanding how veterinarians develop veterinary-client-patient relationships (VCPR), prescribe antimicrobials and dispense medications.
Finding a Veterinarian
The new policy may cause little change in the daily operations of some farms, however, there could be growing pains as producers, feed mills and veterinarians adapt. A key factor in ensuring a smooth transition is for producers to have a valid VCPR with a licensed veterinarian. Sheep producers, however, frequently report difficulties in finding a flock veterinarian. ALP contacted large animal practices across the province and has posted a contact list of responding clinics that expressed an interest in working with sheep producers. A searchable list of all licensed veterinarians in Alberta is available on the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) website (www.abvma.ca).
Producers are encouraged to contact the ABVMA if they have concerns regarding veterinary care or business practices. The ABVMA's primary mandate is 'to ensure that the public is receiving quality veterinary service' and is responsible for the registration, licensing and discipline of veterinarians and animal health technologists in Alberta.
Planning ahead for medication use:
After Dec 1, producers will not need to have an individual prescription for every bottle of antibiotic they buy and veterinarians will not have to administer all medications. Ensuring medications are on-hand when needed, however, means that producers need to work with their veterinarian to develop a VCPR, establish a prevention-based flock health program, plan ahead and track their medication and prescription inventories. Together, producers and veterinarians can establish ahead of time what medications will likely be required during a given period of time (e.g during lambing). The veterinarian will write a standing prescription to cover the anticipated amount of medication needed to cover the given time frame so that producers can buy medications in advance and have them on hand, before they are needed.
For more information:
The Health Canada website provides details of the livestock antimicrobial policy changes and the Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada.
On November 14th, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted the webinar 'The Way you Purchase Antibiotics is Changing', which gives details on the reasons behind these changes and answers producer's questions on how the sale of antimicrobials, including medicated feed, will be impacted.