DEBATE CONTINUES OVER USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IN FEED

by: Stephen B. Blezinger
PhD, PAS

Part 3

In the previous part of this series we examined the more practical aspects of the antibiotics that are commonly fed to cattle for a variety of purposes. In this third and final installment of this series we'll continue the discussion looking at specific medications and their use.

Before we get into this however, it is may be useful to reiterate some things that the producer must understand about feeding antibiotics, the practicality and what the “real world” is for the use of these tools.

All producers need to accept the fact that over the next few years we will see increased pressure to reduce and even discontinue the use of antibiotics in FEEDING. While we have seen pressure on the use of therapeutic antibiotics (those used to treat specific infections or sicknesses), the demand to eliminate this class of drugs will not be as significant. The reason for this is that the consumer does see the need to use antibiotics to help treat sickness and to make the animal feel better (as in humans). There is recognition that the use of antibiotic therapies are shorter lived and not an ongoing, constant application which they have come to see as a problem.

The biggest issue the livestock production industry has concerning the use of antibiotics is lack of education and understanding on the part of the consumer. However, the animal agriculture's ability to overcome this lack of education is overshadowed by the dynamic created by the media, activist groups and groups and individuals who do not understand the issue but are very vocal in their viewpoints. These entities have essentially created a “wall” which prevents accurate information and data from reaching the consumer.

While it is important to continue the fight to educate the consuming public the time may be at hand where as an industry we have to make a statement that indicates we can reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in cattle and truly in all meat producing animals and poultry but it will come with a cost. Our industry will take a step back in efficiency and thus we will produce less and at a higher cost. This comes at a time when all indications are that we have to produce more total volume to accommodate the world demand. This is a product of improved economies in developing countries and an increased demand for meat proteins in their diet. Simultaneously we are faced with the challenge of accomplishing this task with economies that are continuously squeezing profit margins or even the ability to break even. As tools are removed that depresses production efficiencies, this challenge becomes even greater.

There is hope, however. The cattle and feed industries have been reading the handwriting on the wall for some time. Many individuals and organizations (including the antibiotic manufacturing companies) are aggressively searching for compounds, products and technologies that can replace antibiotics in a variety of situations. Since this is not a simple or fast process, as an industry we have a long way to go. Nonetheless, the efforts are in place and ongoing. These solutions will take the form of stress reducing management practices, nutritional components designed to enhance the function of the immune system, products that can bind or reduce the effects of various toxins and mycotoxins commonly found in feed ingredients which can increase stress and reduce immunity, rumen modifiers such as yeasts, fungi and bacterial strains or enzymes that enhance digestion, increase nutrient absorption or reduce pathogen loads and competitiveness.

Using the Tools We Have – While We Have Them

In the meantime let's take a closer look at the antibiotics and related products that are currently available to the producer. There are a wide range of products that can be used for a variety of applications. The list does not include deworming products, estrus suppressants, repartitioning agents etc. Some products can have a positive effect in more than one area and may vary depending on the class of animal or the rate at which they are being fed. There are also a variety of contingencies and restrictions that may pertain to a given product. These rules and restrictions must be adhered to for the legal use of any and all products.

These antibiotic products can often be fed in combination with other products to address multiple issues. It is important when considering the use of these products that a nutritionist experienced in the mixing and feeding of these compounds is consulted to insure proper selection and feeding rates for the application. Inclusion of these products can be expensive so it is important that all the use parameters are considered to insure the producer gets his money's worth. In many cases, some of the drugs listed are manufactured by more than one company and thus are sold under different trade names. This can create some confusion for the producer. Again, an experienced nutritionist can assist with making these decisions and evaluation the options.

Finally, changes within all facets of the fed antibiotic industry are common. This includes changes in names, manufacturers, usage approvals, etc. The following information was adapted from the Feed Additive Compendium, published by Miller Publishing Company (publishers of Feedstuffs) in cooperation with the Animal Health Institute. Due to the potential for change, the accuracy of the information below cannot be guaranteed. Be sure to confirm the information prior to product use.

Conclusions

Without a doubt the use of antibiotics in the feed industry will be under continuous debate and scrutiny until the day comes when they are banned completely. Hopefully sound science will prevail and the industry will not see the demise of this class of valuable tools for a long time to come.

Dr. Steve Blezinger is a management and nutritional consultant with an office in Sulphur Springs, TX. He can be reached at sblez@verizon.net or at (903) 352-3475. For more information please visit us on at www.facebook/reveille livestock concepts.







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