Local authorities in Germany will soon be able to recommend change where antibiotic use on farms is found to be above average and, in extreme cases, suspend livestock owners from farming.

The change, aimed at gradually reducing the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, is part of the 16th Act amending the German Drug Act, which came into force in July, and applies to chicken, turkey, pig and cattle farmers.

Under the new system, supervisory authorities will assess the frequency of antibiotic therapy on a farm and make comparisons with other farms. Following comparisons, a farmer can be required to take action deemed necessary.

As part of the system, poultry and other farmers must report every six months on what antibiotics they have administered to which animals in the period and in what quantities. After federal state authorities and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety have analyzed the data, a nationwide “farm-specific biannual therapeutic frequency” list will be drawn up, with first due for publication in March 2015.

If a farm’s individual index exceeds the federal average, the farmer and veterinarian will have to jointly identify the causes and take steps to curb antibiotic use. If a farm’s index is among the highest 25 percent, the farmer will, after consultation with veterinarians, have to draw up a written plan to cut antimicrobial use and submit that plan to the competent authorities.

Farmers can now be obliged to change husbandry methods, feeding practices, stocking densities and hygiene measures, and failure to comply could result in fines or a suspension from keeping animals.