Eagle Post: Tom Donnelly writes from the US

In 2016, a new US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy will give veterinarians a key role in combating a surge in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For the first time, the agency will require veterinarians, not farmers, to decide when antibiotics are administered. While medical doctors issue antibiotics by prescription only, farmers and food companies have been able to buy the same or similar drugs over the counter to add to feed and water. Antibiotics not only help prevent disease but enable livestock to grow faster on less feed. Today, about 80 per cent of all antibiotics used in the US go to food-producing animals. The new FDA directive is meant to guard against the overuse of the drugs in American meat production. But by enlisting the help of veterinarians, a Reuters examination found, the FDA will be empowering a profession that not only has allegiances to animals, farmers and public health, but also has pervasive and undisclosed financial ties to drug manufacturers.

The relationships between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are subject to strict rules. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act (2010) has disclosed billions of dollars in payments to doctors from drug companies. There is a reason financial transparency was put in place for physicians – increasing evidence of conflicts of interest influencing doctors’ decisions. However, no laws or regulations, including the new FDA directives, require veterinarians to reveal financial connections to drug companies.

Drug and medical-device companies are pouring millions of dollars a year into research and development of pet medicines, Continue reading Eagle Post: Tom Donnelly writes from the US

Overheated herds

This year’s higher than average summer temperatures have highlighted a growing animal welfare issue for the US livestock industry, and it is one that will prove equally relevant for Australia’s farmers as we head into warmer weather. Cattle prefer a cool climate, and suffer heat stress when they become too hot. If symptoms of the animals’ discomfort go unrecognised, a dairy cow’s milk production and fertility can be affected, while the result for intensively farmed beef cattle may be growth and weight loss, which leads to reduced meat production.

As some of the physiological responses to excessive heat are experienced internally by cows, and therefore less likely to be noticed until the animals are severely affected, livestock researchers from the University of Arizona, led by dairy specialist Robert Collier, have developed a vaginal sensor that can measure a cow’s core body temperature, and a leg sensor able to determine whether the cow had been sitting or standing. Continue reading Overheated herds