Antibiotic use on Kenya’s dairy farms is putting consumers and animals at risk

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Dishon Muloi, International Livestock Research Institute and Arshnee Moodley, CGIAR System Organization

Farmers often use antibiotics to keep their livestock healthy. They’re sometimes used as “quick fixes”, to avoid more costly management measures like regular disinfection, waste management, routine vaccination or provision of clean drinking water.

Animal husbandry now accounts for about two thirds of the global consumption of antibiotics. As livestock and fish production grows, by 2030 the consumption of antibiotics is projected to increase by 67%.

Worryingly, this overuse in food animal production can create problems for both animals and people.

It can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which, through food or environmental exposure such as drinking contaminated water, can be transmitted to people.

This means that some antibiotics may become ineffective in treating human infections. Antibiotic resistant infections are associated with 4.95 million deaths globally every year. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 22% of these.

Similarly, animals can also become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This leads to infections that are difficult or impossible to treat.

Our latest study, which focused on the central Kenyan highlands, looked at antibiotic use on smallholder dairy farms as well as antibiotic quality (substandard or counterfeit antibiotics).

Kenya is one of the largest milk producers in Africa and one of the countries with the largest per capita consumption of milk. About 80% of the milk produced in Kenya comes from smallholder farmers.

We found that smallholder farmers weren’t using antibiotics properly and were buying poor quality products. Also, traces of some antibiotics were found in milk.

This puts the health of both people and animals at risk.

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