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BMD®: What is its future in pork production?

An interview with
Daniel Nelson, PhD, PAS
Senior Swine Nutritionist

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Q: BMD has been used in the US pork industry for more than 40 years. Looking forward, do you have any concerns about its age or performance?

DN: Not at all. In fact, BMD is still younger than a lot of other feed medications. What’s unique about BMD is that, despite extensive use, it has not been linked to cross-resistance with other antimicrobials or to an increase in transferable resistance. If usage and customer feedback are any indication, BMD is as dependable today as it was in the mid- to late ‘70s when it was introduced.

Q: What keeps BMD going?

DN: I think it’s the product’s molecular structure and mode of action. The active ingredient, bacitracin methylene disalicylate, isn’t absorbed by the intestinal tract.1 It works strictly in the gut, and there’s no withdrawal period before slaughter.

Q: BMD is often described as a “growth-promoting antibiotic.” Isn’t the livestock industry moving away from those types of medications?

DN: “Growth promotion” is a common expression, but the claims on the BMD label are for “increased rate of weight gain and improved feed efficiency in growing/finishing pigs” when used at 10 to 30 grams per ton of feed. Why these performance benefits occur has been debated by scientists for years.

Q: But isn’t FDA doing away with performance claims for all swine antibiotics?

DN: That’s a misconception. Under FDA’s new veterinary feed directive (VFD) rules that took effect in January 2017, any livestock or poultry antibiotic considered “medically important” to humans — tetracyclines, penicillins and macrolides, for example — needed to drop their performance claims. On the other hand, BMD is not medically important to humans and was allowed to maintain its performance claims under the new rule.

Q: Even so, some integrated pork production companies have already told consumers they will stop using antibiotics that improve feed efficiency or average daily gain. Where does that leave BMD?

DN: I think it still leaves BMD with a bright future. The pork industry wants and needs tools that improve efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint.  Because BMD is one of the few antibiotics remaining with FDA-approved performance claims, it’s the perfect tool for meeting these goals.

In addition, BMD has an indication for use in sows for control of clostridial enteritis caused by Clostridium perfringens in suckling piglets. BMD is the only medicated feed additive with this claim. When you consider that Clostridium is ubiquitous on swine farms,2 producers need to defend their herds against it and the costly clostridial enteritis. BMD is an indispensable tool.

Q: By itself, BMD doesn’t require a VFD, but what if you use it in combination with other approved feed medications?

DN: If you’re combining BMD with Aureomycin® or another medication that requires a VFD, you’ll need a VFD from your veterinarian.

Q: So, in summary, when you look at BMD’s unique label claims and the fact that it doesn’t require a VFD when used alone, BMD could be used in swine feeds for many years to come.

DN: That’s a reasonable assumption. As long as gut health, pig care and efficient pork production remain high priorities for the pork industry, I think BMD will continue to be a valuable tool for producers.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Services LLC or a related company  or a licensor unless otherwise noted. 

1 Original New Animal Drug Application (Bacitracin methylene disalicylate – BMD®). NADA 046-592.
2 Baker AA, et al. Prevalence and Diversity of Toxigenic Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile among Swine Herds in the Midwest. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 May;76(9):2961-2967.

TOOLBOX, Issue 5
Toolbox is a series of interviews with veterinarians about their experiences managing antimicrobials, vaccines and other tools for swine health. It is produced by the editors of Pig Health Today on behalf of the US Pork Business of Zoetis.
August 2017

Posted on February 2, 2019

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It’s not unrealistic to say that if you checked the nasal cavities or tonsils of any group of pigs, you would find Strep suis. While the strain and impact can vary widely, this commensal bacterium is on virtually every hog farm.

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