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Producers proactive in reduced antimicrobial use

Hog producers, veterinarians and researchers were proactive leading up to the implementation of the new VFDs, many doing deep searching into their animal care toolbox looking for antimicrobial replacements.

As you all know, expanded Veterinary Feed Directives went into effect almost a year ago. With the start of 2017, livestock producers were faced with living and operating under an expanded veterinary feed directive put in place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banning the use of medically important (to human health) antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock. Under the expanded VFD, only therapeutic use (treatment, control, prevention) for a specific animal health condition are allowed under the direction of a veterinarian.

Apparently, livestock producers got the memo because this past week the FDA published its annual report looking at the sales and distribution of antimicrobial drugs approved for use in food-producing animals, and the results are encouraging.

The report’s findings indicate that the sales and distribution of all antimicrobials decreased year-over-year by 10% while domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials decreased by 14%. Sales volumes had actually seen increases in prior years of the reports.

Another finding of the report shows that it is estimated that 43% of the domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials was intended for use in cattle, 37% intended for use in swine, 9% intended for use in turkeys, 6% intended for use in chickens and 4% intended for use in other species/unknown.

Hog producers, veterinarians and researchers were proactive leading up to the implementation of the new VFDs, many doing deep searching into their animal care toolbox looking for antimicrobial replacements. Faced with tougher restrictions on antibiotic use, many also started asking themselves “Do we really need to use antibiotics?”

Many swine systems looked at their use of antibiotics in the care for their animals and discovered that they truly could get by with fewer antibiotics without jeopardizing the health of their pigs. Of course, the producers’ main goal is to produce healthy animals for a healthy pork supply. If an animal ails, a producer will give the hog what it needs to get healthy, even if that means dosing an antibiotic — given judiciously, of course.

As the above statistics show, producers are on the right path, but here’s the real encouraging part: the aforementioned FDA report is for sales and distribution of antibiotics from 2015 to 2016 — before the expanded VFDs were in place. This once again shows how livestock producers are being proactive to doing the right thing. They were cutting back on antibiotic use before they were being forced to.

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