NPPC's Liz Wagstrom and Purina's Dari Brown presenting at 2017 South Dakota Pork Congress. National Hog Farmer

Get your house in order

Though the connection between antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans is small, the livestock industry needs to do their part in cleaning up the issue.

“Clean up your room.”

We all heard that from our mothers as we grew up, and probably have said the same to our own children.

A lot of the time that mother’s order was followed with the retort: “But Greg’s room is messy too.”

To which, mothers across the land would exclaim: “Don’t worry about his mess, clean up your own first.”

That same banter has been playing out over the antibiotic-resistance issue. I attended the seminar “Can Probiotics Replace Antibiotics on Your Farm” during the recent South Dakota Pork Congress that featured Liz Wagstrom, National Pork Producers Council chief veterinarian, and Dari C. Brown, Purina Animal Nutrition senior director of livestock and lifestyle technical services.

Along with Wagstrom and Brown discussing the possibility of probiotics replacing antibiotics, philosophical discussions broke out on the bigger picture of antibiotics used for livestock production and implications to human health, perceived or real.

Fingers have commonly been pointed at the livestock industry as a cause of humans developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their bodies, even though Wagstrom says that relationship is in less than 10% of the cases. “Regardless of what that number is,” she says. “10%, 8% or 1%, we do have some share of responsibility in human antibiotic resistance … we need to minimize that contribution as much as possible.”

Expanded Veterinary Feed Directives went into effect Jan. 1, and with them new rules of how livestock producers use antibiotics in their barns. Contrary to some beliefs, antibiotics are not banned in livestock production. Antibiotics can still be used in food-producing animals for prevention, control and treatment of specific diseases, but that use has to be under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Gone are the days of antibiotics being used for growth promotion, performance enhancement or feed efficiency.

Animal agriculture needs to stay ahead of the game here, and adhere to the Food and Drug Administration 213 guidelines, because Wagstrom sees this possibly as only the beginning. “Guidance 213 was a watershed moment, but advocacy groups won’t stop with that success,” she says.

It all gets back to keeping our house, and barns, in order so the fingers can’t be pointed at our industry.

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