Business & Policy
From the Editor: Vets welcome closer producer relations
By Brett Ruffell
A new era in vet-producer relations is on the horizon. As of Dec. 1, all Medically Important Antimicrobials (MIAs) for veterinary use will be sold by prescription only.
This means that any producer wishing to purchase antimicrobials will need a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR). In this issue’s cover story on page 14, we break down what poultry farmers can expect when these changes take effect.
For my part, I wanted to hear the other side of the equation. I asked a few experts from veterinary groups for their thoughts on why they feel increased oversight is important, what role they see producers playing in preventing antibiotic resistance and if they had any related advice for poultry farmers.
One such professional is Phil Buote, deputy registrar with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. Buote has been heavily involved in national antimicrobial stewardship efforts through the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
When he engages with producer groups, he addresses a common concern he hears upfront. The changes aren’t about restricting access, he explains, they’re about leveraging the expertise of vets to ensure antimicrobials are used properly.
To put things into perspective, Buote has people consider what could happen if livestock sectors don’t take steps to mitigate antimicrobial resistance.
“Down the road, modern advancements like hip replacements, heart valve replacements and C-sections might not be available to us,” he suggests. “That’s not withstanding reports that predict 10 million deaths annually by 2050 if no significant policy changes are made.”
With the stakes so high, Buote says all industries that use antibiotics share a responsibility to help prevent antimicrobial resistance. He adds that since they’re also a finite resource, they must be used judiciously. Buote believes producers get it.
Brandi Deimling, manager of government and external relations with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), says farmers have an vital contribution to make. “The knowledge producers have about their animals, practices and facilities provides key information to assist veterinarians when examining animals.”
To help both professions adapt to more veterinary oversight of antibiotics use, OVMA partnered with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on the Farmed Animal Antimicrobial Stewardship (FAAST) Initiative.
“The goal is to raise veterinary and producer awareness about the upcoming federal changes,” Deimling says.
Based on consultations with the Ontario Veterinary College and species-specific groups, FAAST produced amstewardship.ca. A website that includes valuable resources for both vets and producers. It has toolkits, information sheets, species-specific information, case studies, whiteboard videos and podcasts. It also includes interviews with experts from other jurisdictions that have already implemented similar changes.
Although some of the information on the site is specific to Ontario – for example, a case study that reviews the establishment and maintenance of a valid VCPR – the information as a whole could be a helpful resource to producers throughout the country. And while collaborators aim to get as much information as possible on the site by the Dec. 1 deadline, they will also continue to add to the website afterwards.
Both experts have one key piece of advice for producers going forward – don’t wait until the last minute to establish a VCPR. Says Buote, “Seeking out a veterinarian early and in advance of a need allows the vet to get engaged and even develop protocols.”