By December 2018, you’ll need a prescription to buy virtually any livestock antibiotic. Later this year Health Canada will introduce major changes to how livestock producers across Canada can access antibiotics. The new policy does not apply to ionophores, which are not considered to be medically important.  

The Way You Purchase Antibiotics Is Changing

By December 2018, you’ll need a prescription to buy virtually any livestock antibiotic. Later this year Health Canada will introduce major changes to how livestock producers across Canada can access antibiotics. The new policy does not apply to ionophores, which are not considered to be medically important. Starting December 1, 2018, all livestock producers will need a prescription from a licenced veterinarian before they can buy a medically important antibiotic (MIA) for therapeutic use in livestock production. This applies to all beef cattle sectors - cow-calf operators, backgrounders and feedlots. The new policy doesn’t just apply to injectable products, but also includes some boluses, calf scour treatments, in-feed & in-water antibiotics, and implants that contain MIA.

For example, producers will no longer be able to buy a bottle of penicillin or tetracycline to treat common infections such as foot rot, pink eye or mastitis without a valid prescription. Feed mills will only be allowed to sell certain medicated feed formulations if they are given a valid prescription, and will no longer be able to sell antibiotics directly to producers for on-farm mixing. All producers will need to establish a vet-client-patient relationship (VCPR) before they can obtain a prescription for a MIA. Once a valid VCPR and medical need has been established with a licenced veterinarian, a producer will be able to obtain a prescription for a given amount of product over a specified period of time. Prescriptions can be valid for up to a year, allowing producers to refill as needed if that is what the veterinarian advises.

For example, a cow-calf producer can design a herd health protocol with their veterinarian, based on a working knowledge of their operation, health records and herd history. This protocol may anticipate medical need for treatment of specific conditions like pinkeye or footrot, and then a prescription can be written to cover the estimated amount required (X bottles of Alamycin LA or Nuflor) throughout the year. This way, the producer can buy medication as needed up to the estimated amount, or up to the expiry date of the prescription. Producers who already have a strong relationship with their veterinarian likely won’t see any change in normal practices. Where these prescriptions can be filled may vary from province to province. Some provinces may only allow veterinarians or pharmacists to sell antibiotics; others may approve other distribution channels.

Read More (PDF)

Note* This document, created by the Beef Cattle Research Council and Alberta Beef Producers, is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of March 9, 2018. Visit www.beefresearch.ca/AMR for the most up to date version. 

Common Questions

How do I avoid costs and inconvenience?

Work with a veterinarian to see how your current preventative health program can be strengthened to reduce the likelihood of sickness and disease. Reviewing your nutrition and feeding program and feed test results with a nutritionist is also important; optimal nutrition is key to keeping animals healthy enough to resist disease, and to ensure optimal vaccine performance. Veterinarians see a lot of different beef operations, which gives them the opportunity to professionally observe and evaluate a wide variety of management and health programs, see what works (and doesn’t), and make appropriate recommendations. For example, veterinarians have the expertise to appropriately customize your vaccination and parasite control programs so that they more effectively prevent the disease risks and challenges your herd faces. In the end, you may find that veterinary costs turn out to be an investment that improves your bottom line.

Will a veterinarian need to directly examine every sick animal on farm before writing a prescription?

Not necessarily, provided you have a valid VCPR.