Sprague comments on following the new antibiotic rules

posted on Friday, March 24, 2017 in News

Pig farmers are adjusting to the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations's (FDA's) expanding veterinary feed directive and other rules regarding antibiotic use, and they continue to work closely with their veterinarians in making animal health decisions, a panel of experts said recently.

Veterinarians don't utilize an antibiotic for every health challenge, said Michelle Sprague, director of sow health for AMVC Veterinary Services in western Iowa. "We don't use antibiotics to control viral diseases," Sprague said. "Antibiotics only work against bacteria."

When a health challenge on the farm is determined to be bacterial, further tests help her determine which antibiotics are most likely to be effective against that pathogen in that senario, she said.

"That allows us to use the right treatment to cure the disease in a population of animals, minimizing the amount of antibiotics we use and making sure it's maximizing effective," Sprague said.

Sprague noted that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion - now illegal - and the use of antibiotics in disease prevention are two very different things.

She said antibiotics may be used when there's a great risk of disease and when bacteria is present but the pigs aren't fully sick yet.

"If we can come in with antibiotics at that point, we really have the best of both worlds. We can minimize the disease risk for the pigs and keep them healthy and reduce teh risk of them being healthy and reduce the risk of them being ill and potentially dying. We also use less antibiotics," she said. "If we can get in front of the disease pressure and use antibiotics to squish that pressure down before it gets full-blown and out of control, we actually use less antibiotics."

"Regardless of whether we use antibiotics for prevention or treatment of disease, the same rules apply," Sprague said. The prescription must be written by a veterinarian, the veterinarian has to have seen the pigs, understand the farm, the disease risks that are present and be available for follow-up care," she said.

In addition, farmers must also adhere to the withdrawl times for each antibiotic before sending their pigs for processing. Additional U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) testing also helps ensure that no antibiotic residue is present in processed meat before hitting the marketplace, she said.

***Full credit to the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman 3/22/2017***