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Producing Without Antibiotics Costly

Pork producers who reduce or eliminate routine use of antibiotics will find that production costs are higher and management requirements are greater.

An Iowa State University (ISU) team, led by retiring swine nutritionist Palmer Holden, issued a 16-page report: “Minimizing the Use of Antibiotics in Pork Production.”

The document outlines four methods of production: conventional use of antibiotics; feeding subtherapeutics, until the pigs are 40 or 100 lb.; no use of subtherapeutics, including in the nursery; and a total non-antibiotic program. The first three options still allow the use of therapeutic antibiotics. The fourth option includes an ethical need to treat sick animals with therapeutic antibiotics, but such pigs would not be eligible for sale in a non-antibiotic-treated market, Holden says.

Table 1. Cost of Production
Non-STA With STA
Variable Costs Total Per Head Total Per Head Added Non-STA Cost*
Feed $67,827 $51.55 $76,803 $51.26 $0.28
Health $6,546 $4.97 $5,250 $3.50 $1.47
Bedding $6,579 $5.00 $7,491 $5.00 $0.00
Repairs $1,895 $1.44 $1,924 $1.28 $0.16
Fuel/Utilities $2,632 $2.00 $2,632 $1.76 $0.24
Subtotal $85,479 $64.96 $94,099 $62.81 $2.15
Interest $4,274 $3.25 $4,705 $3.14 $0.11
Labor $20,900 $15.88 $22,000 $14.68 $1.20
Breeding herd $5,256 $3.99 $5,256 $3.51 $0.49
Marketing $3,290 $2.50 $3,746 $2.50 $0.00
Total $119,199 $90.59 $129,805 $86.64 $3.95
Fixed costs $28,430 $21.61 $28,852 $19.26 $2.35
Cull revenue $1,184 $0.90 $0.90
Total $146,445 $111.29 $158,658 $105.90 $5.39
Total hogs sold 1,316 1,498
Total wt. sold/lb. 328,968 374,556
Breakeven/cwt. $44.52 $42.36 $2.16
*STA refers to subtherapeutic antibiotics.

Most producers in Iowa should be able to quit feeding subtherapeutic antibiotics by the time pigs reach 100 lb., whereas antibiotics are still very effective and harder to eliminate from nursery diets, he says. “Antibiotics are still essentially as effective as they were when they were developed back in the early '50s,” he stresses.

Subtherapeutics are routinely fed to reduce the threat of a disease outbreak and to enhance growth rate and feed efficiency. Therapeutics treat, control and prevent disease.

“Producers need to evaluate the impact on production costs of raising pigs with and without the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics,” the report notes.

For the four scenarios, the authors compared production parameters in a low-cost, 100-sow outdoor operation with production efficiencies adjusted for use and non-use of subtherapeutic antibiotics (Table 1). The system farrowed year around and hogs were raised to 250-lb. market weight. Producers can utilize their own records to substitute values in the table.

Cost Comparison

Breakeven cost for the non-drug-use group was $44.52/cwt. vs. $42.36/cwt. for the group fed subtherapeutics. This difference of $2.16/cwt. equals $5.39 per 250-lb. hog marketed.

The largest notable production difference was in number of hogs finished, 1,498 for the treated groups vs. 1,316 for the non-treated group in the example. Costs of finishing were less for the treated group because more hogs were marketed, and because of the added cost for non-treated pigs due to increased feeder space requirements. Total herd feed efficiency was 3.48 for non-treated and 3.34 for the treated group.

More on the Web .....

At, University of Tennessee animal scientist Alan Mathew presents data on alternatives to antibiotics, and University of Kentucky swine nutritionist Gary Cromwell revisits results from an antibiotic-free swine herd.