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Act now to find alternatives to antibiotics, producers told

US hog farmers should take a hard look at their production practices if they are to maintain herd health and manage illness in the face of tougher antibiotics rules, a veterinarian urges.

Liz Wagstrom, National Pork Producers Council chief veterinarian, said producers need to act quickly to identify alternative treatments and management techniques now that government regulations have limited antibiotic use.

While there are no true replacements for antibiotics, Wagstrom said there are measures farmers can take to reduce the need for antibiotics, National Hog Farmer reports.

“Replacements can do some [of the things antibiotics do], but not all,” she said. “There is no silver bullet.”

The success of alternative treatments, such as probiotics, depends on what aspect of the antibiotic a producer is trying to replace, as well as the disease situations that exist on a farm, she added.

A farm’s conditions are also key, with herd genetics, management techniques and the farm’s environment all having a significant impact on how well treatments work.

“These factors also play into the effectiveness of antibiotics, so producers need to be conscious of these regardless of the mode of animal health protocols being used on the farm,” Wagstrom said.

Looking at production processes such as vaccination protocols, diet, hygiene and biosecurity could reduce the need for antibiotics and other treatments entirely, she added.

“We think we have great biosecurity, but we found a lot of holes. That’s something we can all take a look at.

“[Similarly] if you don’t have single-sourced pigs coming in pretty tightly grouped on age, you’re going to have some challenges.”

Wagstrom said the latest regulations on antioboitc use were likely to only be the beginning of oversight into how the livestock industry manages animal health.

And regardless of the true link between the livestock sector and humans developing antibiotic-resiistant bacteria, the pig industry must act.

“We do have some share of responsibility in human antibiotic resistance,” she said. “We need to minimize that contribution as much as possible.”

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Posted on May 19, 2017

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