Antibiotic stewardship in America's pig herd

Commitment from America's 60,000 pork producers means placing a high priority on using antibiotics responsibly for the health of people, pigs and the planet.
calendar icon 19 November 2019
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Fowler points to the industry’s PQA Plus programme as a practical way to address all areas of on-farm pig production, including a section dedicated to responsible antibiotic use, public health and animal care. Now in its third decade, PQA Plus trains and certifies pig farmers and their employees on best practices.

Antibiotic research is another priority for US pig farmers. Through their national Pork Checkoff, nearly $2.5 million has been dedicated to antibiotic research over the past five years. Just this year, $400,000 in Checkoff funds were dedicated to research antimicrobial resistance and on-farm antibiotic use.

To further leverage research dollars, the Pork Board recently joined the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private partnership created by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Among its objectives is to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture. ICASA’s membership includes businesses throughout the supply chain, such as McDonald’s, JBS and Tyson.

“This is another way to partner with other organisations with a shared interest in antimicrobial research and to multiply research dollars,” Fowler said.

Throughout the year, the Pork Board maintains a direct relationship with the CDC, participating in meetings, presentations and direct dialogue on antimicrobial issues. In fall 2018, the CDC established the AMR Challenge, asking organisations to commit to specific plans to combat antimicrobial resistance. The Pork Board designated education and outreach activities, which included a farm tour this past summer for public health officials.

“We brought the public health officials to a farm to see pig production firsthand and to see how pig farmers use antibiotics responsibly every day,” Fowler said. “The farm tour, which we hope to conduct again in 2020, also encouraged open dialogue.”

Committed to monitoring outcomes, the Pork Board continues to work on developing metrics to document responsible antibiotic use on pig farms. The goal is to benchmark use, identify areas to improve, reinforce training and show progress in overall antibiotic stewardship.

“Pig farmers have a positive story to tell, and Antibiotic Awareness Week is a good opportunity to share our message with the public,” Newman said. “From herd-health strategies to biosecurity measures, to daily care and management, we are committed to continuous improvement and doing what’s right for the health of people, pigs and the planet.”

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