Economic effects of policy options restricting antimicrobial use for high risk cattle placed in U.S. feedlots.
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The rising public health threat of antimicrobial resistance, the influence of food service companies, as well as the overall lack of positive image of using medical products in intensive farming are major drivers curbing antimicrobial use. In the future, government policies may affect practices of antimicrobial use in beef production in feedlots, a prominent current user of antimicrobials in animal agriculture, but also the agricultural industry generating the highest cash receipt in the U.S. Our objective was to estimate the cost effect from the following policies in feedlots: 1) using antimicrobials for disease prevention, control, and treatment; 2) using antimicrobials only for treatment of disease; and 3) not using antimicrobials for any reason. We modelled a typical U.S. feedlot, where high risk cattle may be afflicted by diseases requiring antimicrobial therapy, namely respiratory diseases, liver abscesses and lameness. We calculated the net revenue loss under each policy of antimicrobial use restriction. With moderate disease incidence, the median net revenue loss was $66 and $96 per animal entering the feedlot, for not using antimicrobials for disease prevention and control, or not using any antimicrobials, respectively, compared to using antimicrobials for disease prevention, control, and treatment. Losses arose mainly from an increase of fatality and morbidity rates, almost doubling for respiratory diseases in the case of antimicrobial use restrictions. In the case of antimicrobial use prohibition, decreasing the feeder cattle price by 9%, or alternatively, increasing the slaughter cattle price by 6.3%, would offset the net revenue losses for the feedlot operator. If no alternatives to antimicrobial therapy for prevention, control and treatment of current infectious diseases are implemented, policies that economically incentivize adoption of non-antimicrobial prevention and control strategies for infectious diseases would be necessary to maintain animal welfare and the profitability of beef production while simultaneously curbing antimicrobial use.