Pig farmers from across the U.S. get updates on changing antibiotic guidance

Nearly 300 National Pork Industry Forum delegates, pig farmers and U.S. pork industry staff assembled in Indianapolis today to learn more about the upcoming regulatory changes to on-farm antibiotic use. The producer update session — an annual activity at Forum — included case studies and tips on how farmers can be ready when new Federal Drug Administration regulations take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

“Producers have been preparing the past 18 months for the very real and substantive changes that are occurring on pig farms across the country in regard to responsible antibiotic use. Producers are very aware of the challenge of antibiotic resistance and are working hard to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, both on the farm and in human medicine,” said Derrick Sleezer, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “Our industry is committed to continuous improvement, and these sessions today ensure that we all have the latest information to apply to our operations when we return home.”

The new FDA guidelines define how medically important feed-grade antibiotics will be used to treat, control and prevent disease, as well as remove medically important antibiotic use for growth promotion. Also, the new regulations define the importance of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), establish a veterinary feed directive (VFD) requirement for many more antibiotics and establish a higher standard for on-farm record-keeping.

Moderated by National Pork Producer Council Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom, update session presenters covered all aspects of on-farm antibiotic use, including:

  • Dr. Lonnie King, Ohio State University, focused broadly on the subject of antibiotic resistance.
  • Dr. Tom Burkgren, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, detailed the importance of establishing a VCPR and how the new requirements for feed directives will work.
  • Randy Spronk of Spronk Brothers Farms, Minnesota, shared real-life challenges and opportunities facing pig farmers as they improve practices to reduce the need for antibiotics.

“The bottom-line message to pork producers is act now — do not wait until January of next year to make these important changes in how you raise pigs,” Spronk said. “This is a defining moment for our industry, and change will not come without some sacrifice. But preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics is critical in our commitment to ensure a safe food supply and to build consumer trust.”

As part of the education session, the National Pork Board introduced its new Pork Industry Guide to Responsible Antibiotic Use. The 12-page guide expands on the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program, supports the industry’s stewardship plan and defines a six-point checklist for success that will help pork producers best prepare for the regulatory changes.

The PQA Plus supplement is just one element of a nearly $2 million investment that the Pork Checkoff is making in 2016 to support antibiotic awareness and education among the industry’s 60,000 pork producers. Other activities include facilitating five distinct research projects, developing producer education materials and advertising in national farm trade publications. Also, the Pork Checkoff will host special events to ensure that packers, processors, foodservice and retail customers fully understand how seriously the U.S. pork industry is addressing this production change.

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