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Apley projects restrictions for antibiotics in the future of livestock production

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Denver, Colo. – The accessibility and availability of various antibiotics for food animal health will become restricted in the next decade, said Mike Apley, DVM and professor at Kansas State University during the 2014 International Livestock Congress. 

“This is a very important issue we have to look forward to in the next decade,” said Apley. “The chance of a new group of antibiotics for use in food animals is nonexistent. We have the main tools we are going to use. Now it is more about husbandry practices in preserving antibiotic use.”

Antimicrobial use

Apley believes the antimicrobial use in food animals can change the bacterial population susceptibility profile, and this causes concern for people that resistant pathogens will become more prevalent. 

“There are multiple safe uses of antimicrobials in food animals for the benefits to both human and animal health,” explained Apley. “This is how we have to frame the responsible conversations that move us forward in discussions with specific antimicrobial uses and relations to specific pathogens.” 

Apley stressed, “The MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) outbreaks we’re seeing in humans have absolutely nothing to do with food animals. It is human driven and community sourced.”

A concern of Apley’s is policy passing for human medicine and having it result in harm to food animal health medicine. 


“It’s about our ability 50 years from now to still be using antibiotics to treat diseases in our own animals,” said Apley. “There is no effective alternative to the antimicrobials, and there has to be evidence that the antimicrobial will be safe and effective for use.”

Some classes of antibiotics have been on the market for decades, and Apley suggested the effects of them need to be revisited and evaluated to see if they are still applicable in today’s medical world. 

“Its not enough for me to have someone down the road at the coffee shop telling me a certain antibiotic saved the calves in 1972,” said Apley. “It is not enough for me and not enough to convey to consumers.”

“The first big step in moving forward on our judicious antimicrobial use is to have veterinarians and producers working together,” said Apley. “We have to make sure everyone has the best information to work with and receive benefit from it.” 

Veterinary control 

“The control of veterinary antimicrobials should be in the hands of veterinarians,” added Apley. 

“All feed antimicrobials that may be used in water are either going to be prescription or veterinary feed directive by about 2017,” stated Apley. 

Apley went on to explain the future accessibility of other medical antibiotics will eventually be authorized by veterinarians as well. 

“The gram per 100 pounds per head per day of chlorotetracycline (CTC) or oxytetracycline (OTC) will change. Those are therapeutic drugs and will not be a taken away,” described Apley. “They will, though, require the authorization of a vet to use of them.”

The use of ionophores will not be included in the classification of therapeutic drugs and will not result in a veterinarian’s authorization to use them for growth promotion in cattle. 

Future use

“The days of visiting the local farm store for these drugs are going to be numbered. Right now they are not focusing on injectable products, but the water products will be gone in three years,” explained Apley. “They won’t be gone from market. They will just have to be prescribed by veterinarians to be able to use them.”

Apley added, “The days of penicillin (Pen-G) at the local store are probably numbered, as well.”

With all the new restrictions occurring with food animal medicines and antibiotics, Apley pondered the effectiveness of veterinarians. 

“For veterinarians, we are debating whether or not we will retain our relevancy, or if we’re just going to be authorizing regulatory formulations,” said Apley. “It’s really a crossroads for us.” 

Madeline Robinson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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