Use of antimicrobials for animals in New Zealand, and in comparison with other countries

N Z Vet J. 2017 Mar;65(2):71-77. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2016.1171736. Epub 2016 May 4.


Aim: To describe the use of antimicrobial drugs for food animals in New Zealand, based on sales data reported to government, changes over time, and in comparison with other countries and human use.

Methods: Data were sourced from official government and industry reports covering 26 European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America in 2012, the last year data were available for all countries. The data included antimicrobial sales, and animal and human populations. Antimicrobial use was estimated based on the amount of active ingredient sold, per standardised biomass (population correction unit).

Results: The estimated usage of antimicrobials for food animals in New Zealand for 2012 was 9.4 mg active ingredient/kg biomass. Total sales of antimicrobials between 2005-14 increased on average by 2.5% or 1.5 tonnes per year. Over the same time total animal biomass decreased by an estimated 4.3%, with the main decrease being in sheep (25%) and beef cattle (17%), while dairy cattle increased (28%). In the countries examined, the estimated usage of antimicrobials in food producing animals in 2012 varied from 3.8 to 341 mg active ingredient/kg biomass, in Norway and Italy, respectively, with use in New Zealand being the third lowest. Usage of antimicrobials for human health in New Zealand in 2012 was estimated at 121 mg active ingredient/kg biomass, being ranked sixteenth of the countries compared. Use in humans was 12.9 times the use in animals.

Conclusions: New Zealand was the third lowest user of antimicrobials in animal production and used much less than in human medicine. This is the first report of baseline data which may be used by the New Zealand animal health industry to develop, and measure success in, approaches to maximise the life of antimicrobials for animal health and welfare.

Clinical relevance: New Zealand veterinarians will soon have to make changes to adopt the World Health Organisation's global action plan to manage antimicrobial resistance. Having a benchmark of current antimicrobial use will inform priorities and allow measurement of the impact of future programmes.

Keywords: Antimicrobials; animal biomass; antimicrobial resistance; antimicrobial sales; human use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Commerce
  • Drug Utilization*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Veterinary Drugs


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Veterinary Drugs