There will always be a need for antibiotics and vaccines in swine, especially in sow herds. However, improved management practices should greatly reduce their use.
With the development of multiple-site systems today, the need for antibiotics and vaccines decreases in the nursery and the grow-finish phases of production. The growth-promotant effects of antibiotics in grow-finish are primarily through disease prevention. This, coupled with the development of more effective vaccines, also reduces the demand for antibiotics.
Approval of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals must meet rigid standards for efficacy and safety. Emerging concerns over the development of antimicrobial resistance in the human population, have made the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) No. 1 objective the protection of public health.
Therefore, it is critical that pork producers understand the consequences of misusing and mishandling antibiotics and vaccines. The FDA will continue to sanction the use of these products in food animal production only if they can be assured of a wholesome product reaching the consumer.
The Pork Quality Assurance program (PQA) developed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is an important management education program. NPPC lists these major benefits of the PQA program:
* To improve management practices,
* To avoid violative drug residues,
* To decrease production costs and
* To increase awareness of food animal safety concerns.
Packers recognize the value of the PQA program and are requiring that producers be certified as a means of assuring them of a wholesome product. This is crucial to the packers because USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is now requiring packers to adopt the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles within their packing plants. By implementing the HACCP principles, the responsibility and accountability will ultimately fall back into the hands of the pork producer.
Veterinarians also play a major role in preharvest food safety. We not only provide instructions on the proper use of antibiotics and biologicals, but also on proper management and sanitation procedures. Our skills in diagnostics, treatment and control of swine diseases are crucial for pork producer survival.
Let's face it, the days of getting paid a premium for lean are over; however, you do get paid for health and it is high health that dramatically impacts production efficiencies.
Veterinarians also provide leadership in producer education campaigns. It is imperative that producers keep detailed records on feed medications used and individual pig treatments. That is the only way to accurately follow slaughter withdrawal times. It is also important to understand that sometimes withdrawal times can be extended due to the nature of the antibiotic used.
Case Study Several years ago, a client requested a consultation to discuss a sulfa drug residue violation that had occurred on his farm. His operation was 250 sows, farrow-to-finish, one site.
At the time, farrowing and nursery facilities were considered very modern with raised crates and decks. One of the finishers was an older barn with a solid concrete floor in which straw bedding was used. In winter, temperature fluctuations had caused a pneumonia problem. The producer decided to add sulfamethazine in the feed to treat the pneumonia. Even though he did not sell any finishers from this barn until after the required withdrawal time of 15 days, a sulfa residue was discovered at slaughter.
I explained to this producer that sulfamethazine was shed in pure form in the urine and feces. The contaminated manure and bedding on the concrete floor was the source of recontamination of the sulfa to the pigs. Had he cleaned the manure out of the barn right after removing the medication from the feed, the residue violation probably would not have happened.
Here are some common-sense rules for handling injectable antibiotics and vaccines:
* Read, understand and follow label instructions;
* Refrigerate all antibiotics and vaccines;
* Never use a product that has been accidentally frozen;
* Don't mix vaccines;
* Clean and disinfect syringes after each project is completed; be sure there is no disinfectant in the clean syringe;
* Never stick a used needle back into a bottle of antibiotic or vaccine. This practice often results in abscesses developing at injection sites; and * Use a small, hand-held cooler to carry vaccines to production area to keep vaccines cold and effective.
Summary Consumers need to be informed of the benefits and potential risks of antibiotics and vaccines in food animals. Screening and monitoring methods will continue to be improved to protect consumers against potential adverse effects of drug residues, some of which could be toxic or cause allergic reactions.
For their part, the pork industry has worked very hard and been very successful at promoting good management practices to ensure a wholesome product for the consumer.