"America's 60,000 pig farmers are keenly aware of the change occurring on farms, and they were clearly ready, willing and able to meet the requirements of these new rules," said Terry O'Neel, board president and a pig farmer from Friend, Nebraska. "To have just two calls into our call center tells me that the requirements are being met and our two-year proactive education plan has paid off."
All human medically important antibiotics administered to pigs in feed and water must have direct veterinarian oversight. The new rules have strengthened the relationships between pig farmers and their veterinarians and both have taken proactive pig management and biosecurity steps to increase the health of pigs and reduce the need for antibiotics.
During the USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) survey on O’Neel’s pig farm that included reviewed written antibiotic-use records from July through December 2016, it was revealed that the farm had reduced the use of antimicrobials.
"We've improved our herd health practices on our farm and are already seeing a reduced need for antibiotics, all while improving our pigs' health," O'Neel said. "Third parties who try to evaluate antibiotic-use policies do not account for or understand the real change underway on today's farms.
"Veterinarians and farmers work every day to protect the health and welfare of their pigs, reduce antibiotic use and lower the carbon footprint of pork production to raise the safest food possible. It is truly a delicate balance for America's pig farmers and it is perplexing when others try to set arbitrary limits on antibiotic use that are actually detrimental to animal health, the environment and food safety."
Pork Checkoff has worked throughout the year to develop relationships with third-party organizations that focus on understanding antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic stewardship initiatives. The National Pork Board took part in workshops with other agriculture industry stakeholders and a multitude of agencies and non-governmental organizations representing environmental, consumer, retail, foodservice and allied industries.
"We are working to develop universal standards on antimicrobial stewardship," said Dr. Heather Fowler, director of producer and public health at the National Pork Board. "It begins with succinctly defining 'stewardship' so all of the players can build programs that are consistent across the board and where success is measurable."
O’Neel went on to say, “Farmers understand their commitment to antibiotic stewardship and are making changes to their practices based on sound research and a commitment to animal welfare. Consumers can rest assured that medically important antibiotics are no longer used for growth promotion."