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APHIS to study antimicrobial resistance on swine farms

Swine farms taking part in the study are clients of Pipestone Veterinary Services.

Jacqui Fatka

November 30, 2021

3 Min Read
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USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has begun a new collaborative effort to study antimicrobial use and resistance on commercial swine farms in the Midwest. The work will focus on use and resistance related to animal health and production-related indicators. APHIS is partnering with several animal health and industry organizations on this study. APHIS says this collaboration could serve as a model for future studies to monitor antimicrobial use and resistance.

The farms taking part in the study are clients of Pipestone Veterinary Services. As a service to their clients, PIPESTONE began collecting data on antimicrobial use five years ago. The company recently started sampling for antimicrobial resistance in selected pig and food safety-related pathogens.

Shawnie Veldhuizen, swine specialist for Pipestone Veterinary Services, explains in a recent article that the Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker, or PART, celebrated its fifth birthday in October. In the summer of 2016, the company welcomed a national fast-food chain to PIPESTONE to showcase all the actions veterinarians and caretakers employ to care for the pigs they raise. “One major criticism we received was the inability to easily show use of antibiotics over time in our efforts to actually demonstrate the stewardship we were promoting,” Veldhuizen says, adding this led to the development of what later would become PART.

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PART allows producers to track antibiotic use in real time and it gives producers the ability to breakdown route of treatment (water, feed, injection) and classification of antibiotic, according to the FDA, and anonymously benchmark their use and cost compared to other participants. 

Today, 163 producers representing 7.5 million market hogs and 10 million weaned pigs use PART to responsibly track their antibiotic use. Additionally, PIPESTONE has elevated efforts to track antibiotic resistance. Through the work of Dr. Scott Dee and Dr. Taylor Spronk, PIPESTONE is looking at the correlation of resistance versus use in an effort to better understand root causes and to be able to make changes if livestock use is in fact, impacting human health, Veldhuizen adds.

In the new APHIS partnership, the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University performs analysis and contributes expertise in bacterial isolation and antimicrobial susceptibility testing for the project. Working with their clients’ approval, PIPESTONE will share their collected anonymized data with APHIS’s National Animal Health Monitoring System for more analysis and interpretation in the context of factors related to management and disease pressure. APHIS aims to provide the initial results from its analysis sometime in 2022.

The collaborative effort is the first of its kind, with funding from public, private and industry sources. Funding is being provided in part through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture and the National Pork Board, in addition to APHIS and PIPESTONE.

This project will supplement the work Veterinary Services is already doing on antimicrobial use and resistance, an important One Health topic. One Health – the interconnectedness of animal, human and environmental health – is of growing importance and awareness. APHIS continues to coordinate with partners at international, national and state levels to address this and other One Health topics.

With the voluntary support of producers in a diversity of sectors, NAHMS has been collecting data about antimicrobial use, stewardship and resistance for many years.

Veldhuizen says now that PIPESTONE has the PART data, they are increasing efforts to communicate nationally and internationally to influence policy and perception with a goal of keeping antibiotics as a tool in the toolbox to protect and save animal lives long term. In addition, packers continue to be more interested in antibiotic use. “Our hope is that PART provides an easy opportunity to capture additional value or preference for farmers when negotiating packer contracts,” Veldhuizen says.

“As proven many times over in the history of pork production, we can’t change the direction of the societal wind, but we can adjust our sails to reach our destination…and in this case, faster, and better, while creating more value for the farmers we serve and proving responsibility to the world.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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