Sign up now!
Don't show this again

Thank you for confirming your subscription!

(And remember, if ever you want to change your email preferences or unsubscribe, just click on the links at the bottom of any email.)
Tap to download the app


Collect articles and features into your own report to read later, print or share with others

Create a New Report


Read Later

Create a new report

Report title (required) Brief description (optional)
follow us

You must be logged in to edit your profile.

Favorites Read Later My Reports PHT Special Reports
Pig Health Today is equipped with some amazing (and free) tools for organizing and sharing content, as well as creating your own magazines and special reports. To access them, please register today.
Sponsored by Zoetis

Pig Health Today | Sponsored by Zoetis

Featured Video Play Icon

Dee: Both pigs and caregivers suffered in antibiotic-free study

A study looking at how PRRS-challenged pigs performed in antibiotic-free production systems needed to be stopped for welfare reasons so the pigs could be treated with antibiotics, according to Scott Dee, DVM, director of research, Pipestone Veterinary Services (PVS).

The study conducted at PVS facilities was designed to compare the performance of health-challenged pigs from birth to marketing in an antibiotic-free group with two groups that received both injectable and oral antibiotics as needed.

A small subset of pigs in each group was challenged with the PRRS virus, which often brings on secondary bacterial infections. As the virus worked its way through the population, all pigs were treated with antibiotics except for those in the antibiotic-free group.

“The animals in the antibiotic-free group were sick but could not be treated with antibiotics,” Dee lamented. “The pigs were really suffering. We were seeing high mortality levels; pigs were huddling and had a lot of weight loss.

“We had to stop the study and treat (antibiotic-free) pigs for welfare reasons,” he told Pig Health Today.

But the antibiotic-free pigs weren’t the only ones suffering, Dee reported at the 2017 Leman Swine Conference. The people taking care of them showed emotional distress, too.

“This was not only an animal issue but also a human issue,” he said.

The struggling pigs recovered once antibiotics were administered.  “There was a turnaround in the mood of the staff, too,” he reported.

Antibiotics important tool

The PPRS virus poses a major threat to any swine herd, but it’s particularly costly when pigs are raised without antibiotics. The virus knocks out a pig’s immune system and “opens the door for secondary pathogens to cause problems,” Dee said.

“We recovered from these (antibiotic-free) pigs many, many diseases. The main message is that when pigs are sick [from bacterial infections], they need to be treated with antibiotics,” which he described as a valuable tool in the veterinarian’s toolbox.

“Use them when needed and justified with diagnostics. Then pull them out,” he said.  “I don’t believe in the need to feed antibiotics continuously in the diet. That’s a practice of the past. We can use medication in the feed appropriately for a specific period of time.”

He supports FDA’s expanded use of the veterinary feed directive (VFD), which requires veterinarians to be involved with using any feed-grade antibiotics deemed by FDA to be medically important to humans.

“This has made us better stewards of microbial use,” he says, referring to the VFD. “You have to improve your management skills to correctly set up facilities and environment to help the welfare of the animals. It’s also allowed us to rely on veterinarian prescription use of injectable and water solubles so the veterinarian has more input into how medications are used.”

The aborted study changed Dee’s mind about another thing. “I will never eat or purchase meat that has a no-antibiotic-ever label,” he said. “What I saw happen to the animals in the antibiotic-free group is unethical. We need antibiotics. If we didn’t have that tool, the suffering in the animal world would be extremely high.”


tags: , ,

You must be logged in to edit your profile.

Google Translate is provided on this website as a reference tool. However, Poultry Health Today and its sponsor and affiliates do not guarantee in any way the accuracy of the translated content and are not responsible for any event resulting from the use of the translation provided by Google. By choosing a language other than English from the Google Translate menu, the user agrees to withhold all liability and/or damage that may occur to the user by depending on or using the translation by Google.