New rules for medicated feeds

editorial image

The European Commission’s proposal for new regulations on medicated feed will have significant implications for farmers, vets and feed businesses.

While incorporation in feed is accepted as one of the most effective ways of administering veterinary medicines to animals, the commission has concerns that its improper use could in some way contribute to antibiotic resistance in the human population. Their aim is to reduce the use of antimicrobials in livestock production and to enforce a highly disciplined approach to the use of medicines in feed.

The veterinarian is the key player in the new proposals. Medicated feed can only be produced and supplied after an examination, diagnosis and treatment prescription by the veterinarian responsible for the animals. A point of particular concern to the livestock industry is that the use of antibiotics to routinely prevent disease will not be permitted and it is only when clinical disease has been diagnosed that medicines can be administered via feed. This has potential to increase the sub-clinical disease challenge and subsequently have a negative impact on animal health and performance.

While the practice of medicating feed is most commonly associated with pig production there is widespread use of prescription coccidiostats in the ruminant sector particularly in sheep and in young cattle. The requirement for a veterinarian to visit and make a diagnosis before animals can be treated will add significant cost and potentially loss of thrive if it causes a delay in the treatment of affected animals.

Feed producers are concerned at the proposals, specifically relating to the production of feeds and the tight restrictions placed on scheduling of production etc. For many businesses the cost of meeting these requirements along with the cost of additional laboratory analysis and the risk of penalties for non compliance may mean that fewer businesses will be prepared to add medications to feed and could lead to less choice for farmers.

As proposals have not yet been finalized, feed producers across Europe are working hard to influence the outcome in the hope of a solution which will allow mills to continue to provide this valuable service to livestock farmers. However the commission will no doubt be influenced by countries such as Germany, Denmark and Belgium which have already removed or significantly reduced in-feed medications.