pigs in barn pens

U.S. pig farmers continue focus on antibiotic stewardship

Pork Checkoff leads investment in antibiotic research — more than $6 million since 2000.

Source: National Pork Board
America’s 60,000 pig farmers continue to make progress in their quest for superior antibiotic stewardship to help protect people, pigs and the planet. On their behalf, the National Pork Board is pleased again to celebrate U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week with organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Pork Board

“This week of antibiotic awareness is a good time for those of us in the pork industry to reflect on our long history of accomplishments with antibiotics, such as using these medications responsibly and embracing the updated Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification program,” says NPB President Terry O’Neel, a pig farmer from Friend, Neb. “As pig farmers, we are aware of issues such as antibiotic resistance, and we are dedicated to working hard to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, both on the farm and in human medicine.”

This year, the CDC changed the name of its educational outreach to Be Antibiotics Aware. The national effort focuses on how everyone can help fight antibiotic resistance and improve antibiotic prescribing and use. The agency says while antibiotics save lives, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. The CDC estimates at least 80 million antibiotic prescriptions each year are unnecessary for human patients, which makes improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority.

“Antibiotic resistance is a public health issue with numerous contributors across human, animal and environmental health,” says Heather Fowler, D.V.M., director of producer and public health with the NPB. “Because of this, pig farmers understand the key role they and their herd veterinarians play as part of the overall One Health, multi-disciplinary approach to antibiotic stewardship.”

Fowler believes ongoing collaboration with academia, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations is the best way to move forward in solving the complex global issue of antibiotic resistance. As examples, she points to yet another revision to long-time programs such as PQA Plus to focus even more on antibiotic stewardship. She also noted the NPB approving a Checkoff investment of more than $6 million for antibiotic-related studies since 2000, which includes novel work on antibiotic usage standards and metrics.

At the national level, the Pork Checkoff has been very active in its ongoing mission of education and outreach to all audiences about how America’s pig farmers are progressing on antibiotic stewardship. During 2017, the NPB hosted a live webcast that brought together experts in farming, veterinarian medicine and the retail and foodservice industries. This event drew more than 60,000 online viewers, with 400 pork producers in the studio audience. A replay of the broadcast can be viewed online at RealChangeOnFarms.org. The Checkoff also participated in a panel discussion at the annual Global Ag Investing conference in New York City to address the shared responsibility of antibiotic use in both animal and human health. Closer to home, the NPB hosted an Iowa farm tour with 20 National Press Foundation journalist fellows.

From a producer perspective, O’Neel says 2017 has been another milestone in antibiotic stewardship, with farmers taking even more proactive steps in pig management and biosecurity. He points out that these efforts have helped increase the health of pigs and reduce the need for antibiotics.

“Last January, the implementation of Guidance 209 and 213 that expanded the Veterinary Feed Directive and eliminated the growth-promotion use of medically important antibiotics took effect,” O’Neel says. “While some of our detractors may have been expecting chaos on our farms, we proved them wrong. America’s pig farmers simply did what we always have done. We stepped up and demonstrated our competency to practice good antibiotic stewardship and our ongoing dedication to doing what’s right for people, pigs and the planet.”

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