Farm Progress

Upping the ante on responsible antibiotic use

Raise 'em Right: Producers and veterinarians are responsible for going beyond the federal mandate for proper animal drug use.

October 14, 2016

3 Min Read

What comes to mind when you hear the word “antibiotics?”

The media is crawling with content about antibiotics these days. For consumers, there is a growing concern about bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and sometimes these concerns are coupled with the use of antibiotics in livestock.

Pipestone Veterinary Services takes these concerns very seriously. As producers and swine industry partners, it is important for us to understand and acknowledge a few points:


1. Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans are a serious concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. each year, 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die.
2. The possibility exists that the use of antibiotics in food animals may contribute to antibiotic treatment failure in humans.
3. The CDC has confirmed that very few of the resistant bacteria concerning to humans could come from food animals.

Because of these concerns and the culture of our policy making process, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has implemented a plan to make the following changes under the upcoming veterinary feed directive (VFD):

1. removed all growth promotion claims from all “medically important” antibiotics in food animals
2. increased veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in food animals

These changes will be effective January 1, 2017 in an effort to mandate more judicious antibiotic use.

As producers, we know that when used correctly, antibiotics are of benefit to pigs, people and even the planet. However, it takes a joint effort to use antibiotics responsibly beyond what the federal government mandates.

How do we do that? First, let me cover what exactly “responsible antibiotic use” by a producer and veterinarian is. It is:

• administering medication under the guidance of a veterinarian
• following the directions on the approved product label
• using only the amount needed to treat the problem
• recommending safe treatment options, including alternatives to antibiotics
• recording, reviewing and responding to antibiotic use

At Pipestone, antibiotic stewardship is about providing producers the tools for responsible antibiotic use to enhance animal well-being and minimize antibiotic resistance. A key tool in this is the last point — the ability to record, review and respond to antibiotic use data. Some producers have made the mistake of jumping to the "response" step before taking the time to record and review the data.

Just like any other part of your business, it’s important to understand the numbers before you can confidently make a good decision. Whether it’s your genetics or feed intake, you use real data to make decisions on what’s best for your herd. Tracking antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance patterns is not any different.

Come Jan. 1, we’ll help producers further with recording, reviewing and responding to antibiotic data. We’ll be working with a web-based tool called the Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker (PART) that will give producers access to track their antibiotic use per pig, and benchmark antibiotic use to other producers. Look for more details on this effort soon.

Odland is director of animal welfare at Pipestone Veterinary Services and Pipestone System. Contact her at 507-825-4211 or [email protected].


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