US - The US' National Pork Board has announced a new antibiotic stewardship plan, aimed at building consumer trust in US pork.
The most notable change will be updating its industry-leading Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) farmer certification program and increasing investments in research and education by more than $1 million in 2016 alone.
These efforts will promote sustainable farming practices focused on responsible antibiotic use that will protect the health and well-being of people, pigs and the planet.
"Today's consumers are focused on their food and the role antibiotics play in meat production," said National Pork Board CEO Chris Hodges.
"By the end of 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration will implement a new policy aimed at on-farm antibiotic use in food-animal production.
"The goal is to eliminate on-farm use of medically important - to human illness - antibiotics for growth promotion and to bring therapeutic use to treat, control or prevent specific disease under veterinary oversight.
"US pig farmers will adapt to this change because of their ongoing commitment to responsible antibiotic use at the farm level to produce safe, wholesome pork in a socially responsible way."
According to Mr Hodges, collaboration will continue to play a pivotal role in moving forward in antibiotic stewardship. Aside from long-standing cooperation between the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, he pointed to the recent engagement with the White House on this issue.
The Executive Office of the President recently highlighted the National Pork Board as one of the nation's leading agricultural organisations managing research efforts in antibiotics and resistance.
Mr Hodges said that the organisation is working with the White House on obtaining additional funding for research to add to the more than $5.3 million in Checkoff-funded research that's been conducted on antimicrobial resistance and alternatives since 2000.
"Producers need antibiotics to treat sick pigs or prevent illness. It is unethical to withhold treatment," said Jennifer Koeman, director of producer and public health for the National Pork Board.
"Over the years, pig farmers have done a great job of working with their veterinarians on using animal health tools such as antibiotics.
Ms Koeman added that the new rules coming from the Food and Drug Administration's 209, 213 and veterinary feed directive (VFD) in December 2016, will change the requirements needed to use certain antibiotics and will more directly involve veterinary oversight.
Under the new FDA rules, producers will need a VFD to gain access to the affected feed-based antibiotics and a prescription for water-based antibiotics.
Although a change for the industry, Ms Koeman noted, it also provides a great opportunity for farmers to work with their veterinarians to revisit all herd health practices with the goal of decreasing disease, enhancing performance and producing a safe, wholesome product for the global market.
"We realise that producers will face a substantial change in how they use antibiotics with the impending policy rule changes, but they can feel good in knowing that they are already doing much of what they need to do to be successful," Ms Koeman said.
"If farmers continue to work with their veterinarians, talk with their feed suppliers, diligently keep records associated with VFDs and prescription antibiotic use and retain current PQA Plus® certification, they will be well prepared to be in full compliance."
According to the National Pork Board's latest statistics, more than 60,000 producers have completed the PQA Plus on-farm education and certification program. All of the major packers require producers to participate in the program before they will purchase their market hogs.
The 2016 revision of the PQA Plus program also will emphasise antibiotic stewardship and stress the importance of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship in deciding when to use antibiotics.
To help producers fully prepare for the changes to come, the National Pork Board is asking them all to strengthen their relationships now with their swine veterinarians. Meanwhile, Pork Checkoff staff will focus on research, education and collaboration on antibiotic issues.
"The pork industry always has been proactive, and pork producers have a long history of using antibiotics properly," said Brad Greenway, a pork producer from Mitchell, South Dakota, and National Pork Board's immediate past vice president.
"Still, there's always room for improvement. All producers need to strive to keep getting better - something we are very familiar with doing."
ThePigSite News Desk
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