5 commentslast update:6 Aug 2012

Do we want antibiotics in feed?

Dick Ziggers
If we look at the world from a medicated feed perspective then two blocks stand out: the European Union and the United States of America. In the EU the use of antibiotics for growth promoting reasons is already banned since January 2006. And now there is also a call for withdrawal of therapeutic use of drugs in animal feeds.

The Dutch organisation for the animal feed industry (Nevedi), for example, would like to stop the use of therapeutic antibiotics in feed as soon as possible, in cooperation with livestock producers and veterinarians. The idea behind this is that Nevedi hopes to contribute in finding a solution to the problem of antibiotic resistance in both humans and animals.
Next to that, the manufacturing of medicated feeds is a burden to the feed millers, because of chances of cross contamination. Current detection methods can trace the tiniest particle in feeds and in animal products.
Different approach
How different is the approach in the US, where just this week the Food and Drug Administration approved florfenicol for use in a so-called ‘Type B Medicated Feed’ for swine. It already had its Type A Medicated Feed approval, meaning it may be mixed in licensed feed mills.
The Type B qualification means it now can be used as a premix in all feed mills, including those found on-farm. This might provide ground for a situation of over-use, since the product is considered to be effective to many respiratory diseases in pigs. “Now, producers can control swine respiratory disease with an easy-to-use formulation,” the manufacturer of the drug states.
I am not questioning the effectiveness of the drug – this A, B, and C typing is applicable to all drugs used in medicated feeds – but more the relative ease with which the drug can be administered. Not to forget that also pigs that are not sick will get the drug in their feed without factual needing it.
Trade issues
These different approaches to antibiotic use also create trade barriers. "We do not have the access to the EU that we could and [antibiotic use] I think is at least one of the issues that is keeping our exports to the EU down," said a spokesman for the US National Pork Producers Council.
Minimizing antibiotics could protect public health (fewer antibiotic resistant bugs) while helping better position US producers in the global marketplace. In Europe animal production is changing towards better management and fewer antibiotics.
I am afraid that if producers in the US shut their eyes for these developments they might go the same way as the US auto industry.
Curious to hear other opinions.


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    Tim Williams

    Great Blog

    Yes we need to alternatives to antibiotic use to improve milling saftey, contamination issues and of course resistance.
    Unfortunatley in many cases antibiotic use is a short cut in slack management practices as livestock farms increase in numbers individual attention to detail slips,thus a blanket treatment is given as a stop gap measure, the old rule of thumb antibiotic use is for curing problems & good management prevents them!
    In the case of the dairy industry forage quality is the key driver of concentrate/forage ratio of the ration thus determine at what levels antibiotic use is required.(if at all)
    In the pursuit of high milk yields the modern dairy cow is now feed like a pig! and is in biological overload, getting back to basic's improving management & forage quality plus continue finding alternatives to antibiotic use is of great importance.

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    David Burch

    I think you are confusing a number of issues to try to make a political point. In a recent paper by Dutch scientists (Dierikx et al, 2010)they claimed that there were hardly any ESBLs (extended spectrum beta lactamases) i.e. resistance to the higher penicillins and cephalosporins before 2003 in poultry E. coli and Salmonella spp. Were you not using the older antibiotics in water and feed then. It is only since the introduction and extensive use of 3rd generation cephalosporins that these problems have emerged and these are by injection and not administered in feed or drinking water. In addition, the ESBLs we find in animals are not the same generally as we find in man, as demonstrated in a recent study carried out in cattle ESBLs and human hospital cases in the UK. Prudent use is the way forward in the EU, rather than the over-enthusiastic Dutch view of banning in-feed use, which has served the agricultural industry well over the last 50 years.

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    Giuseppe Baricco

    In many farm conditions you need to administer a drug to sick animals AND to those who are not sick but, living in strict contact with the sick ones, are most probably infected, or at least at a very high risk of infection.
    This is a common practice.
    I understand all the story of "safety" at feedmill level, but must be clarified that treating a drinking water pipeline in a farm has exactly (.. or more) the same safety concerns. Water is a fluid, you can't block cross contaminations in the drinking water. Use only injectables as an alternative? This would lead to a dramatic increase in overall mortality, mainly in sub-optimal environment conditions. Is the actual and future market of animal products ready for this?
    The question is opened, and actual: my feeling is that the elimination of medicated feeds will not add anything, being a simple solution for a complicated problem. The only chance is responsability, diffused at any level of the chain from feed to food.

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    Mike Spandern

    Infeed antibiotics are simply not manageable anymore. No matter what the data say.
    They will fade out worldwide.

    Mike Spandern
    Expert Witness f Feed Production

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    Use concentrated probiotics instead

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