Code of practice for the use of prescription animal remedies (Schedule 4 substances) in the poultry industry
Ratification Date: 01 Jan 2005
Veterinarians must be familiar with federal and state legislation, as it applies to their obligations as a registered veterinarian in the state(s) in which they practise, relating to the purchase, storage, supply and use of prescription animal remedies (PARs, Schedule 4 medications).
Practices of supply and usage of PARs and other antibiotics in the poultry industry have legal and ethical restraints. Company or consultant veterinarians in the poultry industry have a responsibility to ensure that their actions maintain the commercial viability of the company for which they work, but this should not override their legal or ethical obligations as a veterinarian.
Organisation of the Australian poultry industry
The structure of the Australian poultry industry differs significantly from that of other livestock industries. This greatly influences the provision of veterinary services and the supply of PARs and other antibiotics.
In the chicken meat industry, a limited number of companies own most of the production phases, including breeding and commercial flocks, and these companies also employ veterinarians. Some chicken meat companies rely on contract broiler growing and provide veterinary services as part of that contract.
In the egg layer industry, flock ownership is largely restricted to the commercial layer chicken companies. Stock is supplied by the breeding companies, sometimes accompanied by veterinary services. Veterinary services to egg producers (and some smaller independent poultry meat producers) may be obtained from veterinarians in private employment, government veterinarians, poultry company veterinarians or independent consultant veterinarians.
In many of these situations, the role of the veterinarian has evolved into one of flock health management, often necessitating treatment or preventative measures on a flock basis.
The PAR medication supply chain
The PAR medication supply chain between manufacturer and end user comprises the following:
- The wholesaler may purchase medications directly from a manufacturer and subsequently supply to a veterinarian, a pharmacist, another licensed or authorised wholesaler, or an authorised receiver such as a feed mill or premix manufacturer. All wholesalers supplying PAR medications must be either licensed or authorised to do so. A wholesaler may not supply directly to an end user and cannot be authorised to do so by any person. Poultry companies can maintain a wholesale drug operation independent of veterinary involvement, but must meet their obligations under state health legislation to purchase, hold, record and supply to authorised persons or companies only.
- The feed mill can be authorised or licensed to receive and hold PAR medications, but cannot supply feedstuffs containing PAR medications except on the written order of the veterinarian supervising the birds to be treated.
- The pharmacist may only dispense a PAR medication to an end user on veterinary prescription.
- The veterinarian accepts responsibility for the supply and use of PAR medications for the animals under their care. Veterinarians involved in the supply chain of PARs should continually update their understanding of those individuals or corporate entities that are registered as authorised veterinary wholesalers and ensure that they know that the PARs authorised are correctly registered for sale or use in food-producing animals.
- The veterinary assistant is a responsible person nominated by a veterinarian and can administer that medication to a flock under the directions of the veterinarian. In many instances, the assistant may also be a serviceperson or farm manager. Assistants need not be veterinarians.
- The end user is the person who actually administers the medication, usually the farm manager or broiler grower.
Background to specific guidelines
Practices of supply of PARs in the poultry industry could contravene the requirements of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) or state control-of-use and health legislation. Such practices may involve:
- failure of a veterinarian to provide adequate ‘professional intervention’ in the ordering, storage, supply and use of a PAR
- failure to comply with withholding periods
- failure to comply with requirements for ‘veterinary care and supervision of recipient stock’.
In an integrated poultry company, the supply of a PAR from the wholesale or purchasing section of the company — including premix supplier and/or feed mill — to the end user (the farm manager or broiler grower) is illegal without ‘professional intervention’ by a veterinarian.
Veterinarians, whether in an integrated poultry company or in private practice, have legal obligations under state and federal legislation to provide ‘professional intervention’ in the supply of a PAR to stock ‘under their care and supervision’.
The use of antibiotics is under increasing public scrutiny, particularly in food-producing animals, because of the potential for human health hazards due to antibiotic residues or antibiotic-resistant bacteria or resistance genes in food. Veterinarians are the trained professionals who are expected to oversee the prudent use of antibiotics in birds and animals.
Other relevant policies and codes of practice
Date of ratification by AVA Board 1 January 2005. Reviewed for currency April 2023.