Antimicrobial Stewardship on Veal Farms

Overview: Antibiotics are necessary to treat bacterial infections in sick calves. However, they are often used on the farm when they are not necessary or likely to improve the calf’s health outcome. Unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance, which presents a threat to human and animal health because infections are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them are becoming less effective. Proper antibiotic treatment is particularly important for young male dairy calves because they are transported from the farm where they are born and typically sold through auction within days of birth. This early-life management increases calves’ risk of disease, and leads to increased individual antibiotic treatments, as well as group treatment of calves shortly after they arrive to the veal farm. Veterinarians are responsible for providing antibiotics to calf producers, but the producers are responsible for making the day-to-day decisions on how to treat sick calves and whether or not antibiotics are needed in each case. This decision-making process is rather subjective, happens quickly on the farm, and sometimes even varies between farms that follow similar disease treatment protocols.

Study Goals: This study addresses the need for antibiotic stewardship training for veal calf producers to help guide their treatment decisions to  reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance. Specifically, we hope to:

  1. Identify current antibiotic use practices on veal farms for the most common calf diseases and understand potential barriers to more judicious antibiotic use, and
  2. Develop an antibiotic stewardship educational training program for calf producers, and test the effectiveness of this training on reducing unnecessary antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance.

Resources for Calf Producers: As part of the project, our team developed decision-tree treatment protocols and disease recognition learning materials for calf producers. The treatment protocols are designed to facilitate the decision process and communication of veterinary written protocols. These protocols were written for a specific herd, but may be useful as templates for tailored veterinary-written treatment protocols. All antimicrobial use protocols should be developed in consultation and in the presence of a valid veterinary client patient relationship.

  1. Example Diarrhea Treatment Protocol
  2. Example Respiratory Disease Treatment Protocol
  3. Example Navel Infection Treatment Protocol