Antibiotic-Free Pork Challenges Industry Norm

Manon St-Hilaire described the successful setting up of an operation to produce pork without the routine use of antibiotics at the 2010 Banff Pork Seminar.
calendar icon 16 February 2010
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Given the economic realities the pork industry has faced, it may seem a little odd to be showcasing a pork production system that adds even more costs and challenges to pork production. But that is what the Banff Pork Seminar session on how to raise antibiotic-free pork achieved.

The Seminar has always prided itself on showcasing the leading edge. Interestingly, there was decent attendance at the session, which speaks to the interest of producers and industry to consider new possibilities.

One of the speakers for the session, veterinarian Manon St-Hilaire is a consultant to an antibiotic free operation that has been operating for the past two years. It is a significant operation: 10,000 sows with an objective of 4,000 antibiotic-free pigs per week at a success rate of 85 per cent.

Manon St-Hilaire

The operation is considered a success story, says Dr St-Hilaire, with 82 per cent of pigs produced qualifying as antibiotic-free. Farm managers agree that the results are surprisingly good, she says. However, some of the producers who signed up to participate have gone back to their traditional systems.

Interestingly, she says, those producers who have gone back have found that the effectiveness of antibiotics in their systems is greater.

"I used to believe if everything is going well, why change it," she said, in reference to being asked to help develop an antibiotic-free production system in the first place. "Now I believe that we should use antibiotics in a curative approach, and occasionally in a preventative manner. But we should always ask ourselves, 'Is this really necessary?',"

Clearly not for the faint of heart, the system requires a significant investment in new management technologies to offset removal of antibiotic option and a willingness to improvise to find solutions. However, in the case of this operation, performances in maternity and finisher areas have only been slightly affected, she says while the nursery area have had a decrease in average daily gain and feed efficiency of about 10 per cent.

Further Reading

- You can view other reports from the 2010 Banff Pork Seminar by clicking here.

February 2010
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