In-feed antibiotics best addressed on a case-by-case basis
Adjusting to changes in how and when to use in-feed antibiotics is an ongoing effort. While those products are still available under veterinarian supervision for prevention and treatment of a specific disease, it’s best to address each case individually, said Levi Johnson, DVM, New Fashion Pork (NFP), Jackson, Minnesota.
“Each system is different — health status, pig flow — there are many nuances to address,” he added. In NFP’s case, the company started pulling out medications a bit at a time. “It’s like a kid learning to ride a bike on training wheels; it’s a little scary when you take the wheels off.”
Today, NFP has removed in-feed antibiotics from all but one of its pig flows, and that’s due to the challenges presented by a tough porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus.
Among its health-management adjustments, NFP has increased the use of vaccines. “With fewer antibiotics, we are dealing with more cases of Salmonella and more severe cases,” Johnson said. That has resulted in an aggressive vaccination program for sows as well as for just-weaned pigs.
Essentially all pig populations have some Salmonella, and since it’s an intermittent shedder, stressful events will increase that shedding. So, it’s equally important to get the pig’s environment right, Johnson said. That means ensuring ventilation pulls in enough fresh air and controls humidity to provide a clean, dry space.
“We don’t take Salmonella lightly,” Johnson said. “It makes pigs feel bad and can lead to packer and food-safety issues.”
But eliminating access to all in-feed antibiotics would be bad for many reasons, not the least of which is the animal’s well-being, he added. “We have to do what’s right for the pig and for the consumer. But, there’s also an added risk if we don’t treat pigs that need treatment.”