Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teach Me Tuesday: Antibiotic use in livestock

Recently it was brought to my attention that an ad has been making its ways through schools and to moms.  This ad encourages people to help end the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in food animal production.  Now I'm not exactly sure what they are campaigning for since the livestock industry has been regulating and decreasing the amount of antibiotics used since the mid-1980's.

I know on our farm, animals are given antibiotics in the same manner I would give them to my son...if they are sick and in the correct dosage and time frame...meaning if I am suppose to give 1 teaspoon for 5 days...I give 1 teaspoon for 5 days.  We don't routinely use antibiotics for no reason.  We follow the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines:

  1. avoid using antibiotics that are important in human medicine
  2. use a narrow spectrum of antimicrobials whenever possible
  3. treat the fewest number of animals possible
  4. antibiotic use should be limited to prevent or control disease and should not be used if the primary intent is to improve performance 
( Learn more at ExploreBeef)



The ad accuses farmers of putting human health at risk however I strongly disagree...

the number one reason is multiple studies have been conducted and the has been no connection found between antibiotic use in cattle and increased risk to consumers by developing antibiotic-resistant foodborne or other pathogens.  (Journal of Food Protection, July 2004; Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 2003).

There is also a monitoring system that was established in 1996 by USDA, FDA, and the CDC which provides and early warning system for detecting any change in pathogen resistance patterns (http://www.fda.gov/cvm/narms_pg.html)...

in addition our industry itself takes this seriously since we would be the first one's affect (we are the front line of food animal production).  Cattle farmers and ranchers have funded more than 13 research projects to enhance the understanding of resistance development you can check them out at www.beefresearch.org

And let's not forget that the U.S. government mandates that no beef with antibiotic residues be allowed in the food supply.

Many things have contributed to certain bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant...over use by health professionals, misuse by human patients and more.  Here is an interesting paper to read on why antibiotic resistance spreads fast.  Also check out the CDC's website and the Get Smart: Know when Antibiotics Work program.

It is easy to point the finger of blame however as I have told my son and many of my students in the past when you are pointing your finger at someone...three are pointing back at you as well.  We must all take personal responsibility in our part in this issue, farmers and ranchers have stepped up to make a difference in how we use antibiotics on farm, by implementing many guidelines and regulations that we follow, by ensuring we use antibiotics properly and judiciously.  We are the experts on our livestock and what is best for them just as you are the experts on your own individual children.

Just as you know what’s best for your children, farmers know what is best for their livestock.  We have been blessed with this great task and we take the job of feeding our families – and YOURS – very seriously.  We are experts in our field and we will continue to provide you and your family the safest, most nutritious and affordable food supply in the world.

Until next time--

Caci