Fellowship Publication: Antibiotic use among poultry farmers in Ghana, Dormaa Municipality

Antibiotic use has contributed significantly to many successes in human medicine and improvement in animal welfare. There is however global concern about non-regulation of antibiotics in food producing animals due to the great threat it poses to public health. This publication was co-written by Fleming Fund Fellow, Mary Nkansa.


Local evidence is required to support the regulation of antibiotics in the thriving poultry sub-sector but such data are limited. The study was conducted to investigate antibiotic use among poultry farmers in the Dormaa Municipality of the Bono Region of Ghana. Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted in February to March 2020. A total of 161 commercial and backyard poultry farmers were interviewed using a “Drug bag” containing antibiotics purchased from the study area in addition to questionnaires to elicit responses about medicines. Treatment log books were also inspected where available. Results: Farms were classified as backyard (n=41) or small, medium or large scale commercial (n=120). Of the commercial farms, most respondents were farm managers or farm owners and most (91%) kept layer hens. All commercial farms reported using antibiotics, obtained mainly from the Agro-Vet shops without prescription, and for both therapeutic and non-therapeutic use, while 24% of backyard farmers also used antibiotics, obtained from human drug stores, primarily for therapeutic use. Over 60% of commercial farmers indicated the use of any of the four major classes of antibiotics, namely Aminoglycosides, Polymyxins, Macrolides and Tetracyclines which are critically important in human medicine. Backyard farmers mainly used penicillins. A majority (67%) of the commercial farmers reported self-administration of antibiotics based on the information they acquire from varied sources such as colleagues, drug and feed manufacturer representatives for therapeutic and non-therapeutic purposes on their farms with little or no supervision from the Veterinarian. Adherence to the withdrawal periods is very low due to financial implications of losing out on sales of batches of eggs, however, a few farmers did report complying to the withdrawal periods. Conclusion: Key concerns for antibiotic use in poultry in the Dormaa region are frequent use of critically important antibiotics without supervision from a competent official, easy access to antibiotics without prescription and non-adherence to withdrawal periods of medicines. To address this problem, whilst recognising the need for productivity of the poultry industry, the following actions are recommended to be piloted and evaluated: (1) Enhancement of the capacities of Veterinarians and Para veterinarians (Veterinary Technicians) to guide and offer adequate supervision in the administration of antibiotics on farms; (2) Regular farm-based trainings to create awareness on the importance of improving farm hygiene for minimizing antibiotic use, and in effective, affordable and feasible biosecurity and animal husbandry to achieve this; (3) Promotion of biologicals (vaccines, pre and probiotics) as an alternative to antimicrobial use in husbandry to reduce the development of resistance and accumulation of residues; (4) Development and enforcement of regulatory and advertising guidelines and prohibitions in the manufacture, import, sale and use of antibiotics at all levels through antibiotic stewardship strategies that engage and coordinate all relevant actors in the animal sector; (5) Enhanced monitoring – through improved capacity of the Veterinary Services Directorate – of levels of antibiotic residues and certification of animal products (e.g. poultry, fish) prior to their release into the markets to protect public health, environment and ensure sustainable productivity in the industry; (6) Sanctions, such as fines for defaulting farms, to serve as a deterrent to other potential and existing farms. Operational research, which takes an evidence based approach to track the effectiveness of such strategies, is required in order to informs ongoing investment in policies and services that can reduce recourse to antibiotics as the poultry industry undergoes its rapid expansion in Ghana.

Nkansa, M; Agbekpornu, H; Kikimoto, BB; Chandler, CIR; (2020) Antibiotic Use Among Poultry Farmers in the Dormaa Municipality, Ghana. Report for Fleming Fund Fellowship Programme. Project Report. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17037/PUBS.04658868

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