The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) launched Jan. 30 the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public/private partnership to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture and improve animal health and welfare.
Antibiotics are extremely valuable tools in the effort to protect animal health, FFAR said in its Jan. 30 announcement. Maintaining the efficacy of antibiotics is a highly complex issue affecting both human and animal health and it is a top priority for veterinarians and livestock producers.
The responsible and judicious use of antibiotics is key to addressing this challenge, which affects the entire supply chain and is further complicated by factors that influence animal health, including genetics, nutrition, infectious diseases, environmental stressors and other factors, FFAR said.
ICASA was formed to accelerate innovation and improve antibiotic stewardship by building the cross-sector partnerships critical to making advances on a broad scale. The consortium will uncover long-term solutions to major drivers of antibiotic use by field testing new technologies and management practices, FFAR said.
Ultimately, the consortium aims to develop and publish results that improve animal health and welfare, promote responsible and judicious antibiotic use and benefit animal agriculture as well as the general public.
“ICASA has the potential to have extraordinary impact. The collaborative framework brings together exceptional expertise and significant resources to tackle major challenges in livestock production. Working together is critical to improving animal health and welfare and preserving the efficacy of antibiotics for both animals and people,” FFAR scientific program director Tim Kurt said.
Collectively, ICASA member organizations represent approximately 40% of all fed beef cattle marketed in the U.S., through operations that feed more than 2.75 million head of cattle and provide veterinary services to an additional 2 million head of cattle, the announcement said. The consortium also includes three of the world’s largest companies that process or sell beef, pork and chicken products, along with two livestock associations that together represent more than 85,000 producers.
The National Pork Board, which has ex-officio status in ICASA, told Feedstuffs that the consortium allows members to pool research funding for big projects that extend across species, production systems and companies.
ICASA is the first research consortium to bring together participants representing all stages of the U.S. livestock supply chain, from producers to restaurant chains, to accelerate improvement in animal welfare and judicious antibiotic use, FFAR said.
Private-sector participants are matching FFAR’s initial $7.5 million investment in ICASA, resulting in a total investment of $15 million towards innovative animal health and antimicrobial stewardship research.
ICASA projects will initially focus on animal health issues that underlie significant challenges to welfare and reduce the need for antimicrobial use in beef and pork, FFAR said. ICASA will also support cross-species projects focused on animal health and welfare monitoring.
Understanding the diseases that drive antibiotic use will allow producers to find alternatives while maintaining animal health.
Dr. Heather Fowler, director of producer and public health at the National Pork Board, said these projects may look at antibiotic alternatives, management practices and husbandry, decision-making tools and economic trade-offs to using various options.
“It’s a truly unique opportunity when 12 organizations work together to solve major industry challenges,” FFAR executive director Sally Rockey said. “Not only does ICASA represent one of the largest investments in antibiotic stewardship and livestock welfare research; it’s bringing the right people to the table. ICASA has the potential to advance animal agriculture in amazing ways.”
In addition to FFAR and the National Pork Board, ICASA’s founding participants include: Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Beef Alliance, Cactus Research, HyPlains Feedyard, JBS USA, McDonald’s, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., Noble Research Institute, Tyson Foods and Veterinary Research & Consulting Services.
ICASA is recruiting additional partners to join the effort. More information is available at the group's website.