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Keep Antimicrobials Working!

Bacteria that can cause illnesses and death in beef and dairy cattle are getting harder to kill with antimicrobials. This is a growing problem for the food- producing animal industries. These hard-to-kill or "resistant" bacteria are also a problem in for human health. It is important for livestock producers, veterinarians, and other animal owners to become knowledgeable about the issue of antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance and to implement practices which will ensure the current antimicrobials we now have working continue to work.

Antimicrobial resistance means that disease-causing bacteria can defend against the antimicrobials (antibiotics and related medicinal drugs) once used to kill them. For example, strains of Salmonella that are resistant to multiple types of antimicrobials are now being found in food animals and in humans. The appropriate use of antimicrobials in animals, good management practices, and biosecurity are critical in keeping antimicrobials working on the farm and to prevent human infection with resistant bacteria.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has received funding through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a campaign addressing antimicrobial resistance in agricultural and veterinary settings in Tennessee. TDH has joined with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) in this campaign to partner with producers and veterinarians to address the problem of antibiotic resistance and to promote appropriate use of antimicrobials in animals.

The Tennessee Team on Antimicrobial Resistance (TTAR) is a coalition of members from the TDH, TDA, the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association, UT Extension Service, Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, and others joined together to develop and promote this effort to Keep Antimicrobials Working!

An initial objective of TTAR is to conduct a survey among beef cattle producers who represent Tennessee’s number one agricultural commodity. The survey will address knowledge, attitudes, practices, and needs related to biosecurity and the use of antimicrobials. Based on the survey results and other current resources, materials will be developed and distributed to provide the most current information possible for beef cattle producers and veterinarians about antimicrobial resistance and guidelines for appropriate use.

TTAR encourages cattle producers to learn about appropriate antimicrobial use and management practices from the Tennessee Master Beef Producer Program offered by the University of Tennessee Extension Service and the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Beef Quality Assurance Program. A brief summary of these practices includes the following:

Select and Use Antimicrobials Carefully

  • Limit antibiotic use to sick animals or those exposed to disease.
  • The proper dose, through the proper route, for the recommended time.
  • Consult a veterinarian whenever antimicrobials are used.
  • Use laboratory results to select antimicrobials.
  • Avoid broad spectrum antimicrobials.
  • Use only drugs acceptable for food-producing animals.
  • Know and observe withdrawal times before milking or harvesting.
  • Keep records of antimicrobial use.

Practice Proper Management to Avoid the Need for Antibiotics

  • Vaccinate.
  • Observe cattle – diagnose problems early and accurately.
  • Limit stress.
  • Separate sick animals or young or new cows.
  • Control parasites.
  • Manage nutrition.
  • Manage the environment.
  • Prevent contact with wild or domestic animals.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment between each animal use.
  • Schedule work:
    • From Youngest to Oldest.
    • From Healthy to Sick.

As a reminder, TDA is offering scholarships to producers who participate in the UT Extension’s Master Beef Producer Program.  The Departments will pay $100 dollars toward the cost of the 12-session educational program.  For more information on the Master Beef Producer Program, contact your local UT Extension office at

Darryl Edmisson, MS, is the project coordinator for the Tennessee Team on Antimicrobial Resistance. Dr. John Dunn, DVM, PhD, Medical Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian, provides primary oversight for the program in conjunction with Dr. Ron Wilson, DVM, State Veterinarian, Tennessee Department of Agriculture.