Pork industry teaming with NAHMS, FDA to score antibiotic use

From the public to government agencies to producers, everyone wants a clear assessment of antibiotic usage on farms. But how should that be measured?
calendar icon 18 August 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

National Pork Board’s David Pyburn, DVM, talked with Pig Health Today about two initiatives under way to help regulators grade the pork industry’s commitment to responsible antibiotic usage.

The first involves a survey, initiated by USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), which began in June 2017.

“They came to us last winter with a monitoring tool and asked for our input to ensure that we’d get the most out of it for the industry and also for the public,” said Dave Pyburn, DVM, senior vice president, science and technology, National Pork Board (NPB). “They can see why antibiotics are needed on the farm and why we use them for pigs’ health and welfare.”

The survey involves farms from the top 17 pork-production states that have more than 1,000 pigs on site annually. “If a producer meets those criteria, then he is in a pool to be drawn randomly,” Pyburn told Pig Health Today.

The veterinarian said it was important for industry to establish a baseline for antibiotic usage so the pork industry can demonstrate its commitment to responsible antibiotic management. Participation is strictly voluntary, however, and the information collected is ghosted and not tied to any individual producer.

Participating producers are being asked to share data on antibiotic use in 2016 — which products, when and how much. NAHMS will then come back in a year or two for the same data to measure the effect of FDA’s new rules, which require veterinarians to issue a veterinary feed directive for any medication deemed medically important by the agency.

Pyburn cited a second initiative, funded by the Pork Checkoff, which began a year ago with Peter Davies, DVM, a renowned antibiotic expert from the University of Minnesota. NPB asked Davies to evaluate and develop meaningful measures for antibiotic use on hog farms.

“We can’t just measure usage. We wanted him to show how to measure stewardship and why antibiotics are used,” Pyburn said. “He looked at the variables to be measured and developed an analysis system. He got the project rolling.”

Since then, FDA proposed a 5-year effort to do the same thing in beef, poultry and dairy. Davies was awarded the pork project. “Pork Checkoff seeded the project, got it started early and now FDA is taking over the funding,” Pyburn explained, adding that these initiatives benefit producers and consumers alike.

“It’s important for the people, who likely haven’t been on a farm recently, to understand why we use antibiotics,” he concluded. “If we don’t use them when needed, we’ll have animal-health and welfare issues and, possibly, food-safety issues.”

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