3 reasons we use antibiotics in livestock

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Geni Wren Last week, at the Meat and Poultry Research Conference in Kansas City, Mo., experts spoke about antibiotic use in livestock production.

Often scientific jargon is used to describe antibiotic use and why we use them in livestock, but it can be boiled down more simply in three key messages:

  1. Antibiotics used in food animals approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration – the same agency that approves human medications.
  2. Antibiotics in food animals are used according to their labeled directions,  or may be used off label (except for in-feed medications) only under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
  3. Animals must be healthy to enter the food chain. Prudent and judicious use of FDA-approved antibiotics allow producers and veterinarians to address infectious disease challenges in food animals and provide healthy animal-derived food products.

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Idaho  |  November, 10, 2011 at 12:36 AM

No, actually the three reasons we use antibiotics in animals are 1. to treat disease, 2. to prevent disease and 3. for non-therapeutic uses such as to improve feed efficiency. The third one is the controversial use. You need a better headline writer.

SOUTH AFRICA  |  November, 10, 2011 at 06:07 AM

Thank you Diana, the first answer was absurd. The improvement on feed efficiently comes from control of rumen microflora growth (in ruminants) that spoil some proteins to useless urea.

dr c    
illinois  |  November, 12, 2011 at 06:21 PM

All articles stress the veterinarian in controlling antibiotic use. As we have seen, feed companies and phamaceuticla firms have theur rolemin this, too. Remember the anthrax scare: suddenly, ciprofloxacin is the drug of choice. The CDC stepped in on this and said other, older drugs (penicillin, erythromycin, and tetracycline) were preferable. Was the drug company's interest on their recommendation good medicine or the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR.

Wisconsin  |  November, 13, 2011 at 06:46 AM

Words matter. It's important to think like a consumer when addressing high concern issues such as antibiotic use. For example, telling a consumer that the "same agency that approves human..." may not comfort them. The phrase "off-label" is not consumer-friendly and implies you are not following label directions. And, "infectious disease challenges" raises more questions than it answers. We all know what the author is saying, but keep the consumer in mind when answering questions. I like to remind producers to think of yourself as having a PhD in dairy farming. Take your messages down to a third grade level when explaining on-farm practices. Diana is on the right track with messages one and two.

Maxine Jones    
Midland, SD  |  November, 14, 2011 at 02:49 PM

Antibiotic use is such an emotional issue, it seems almost beyond many consumers to grasp that not all cattle or other food animals given antibiotics routinely. There are too many activists using scare tactics and outright mis-information (aka lies!) about abuse and over use in animals. The fact is that there likely is MORE over use of antibiotics in people because they can demand their doctors give them something strong when they have a cold or flu which is not properly treated with antibiotics. Or more commonly, people fail to take all their pills when they feel better at half finished with the prescription, use 'left over' meds for other people, and even pour liquid antibiotics down the toilet, polluting our waters. Few antibiotics used for animals are also used for humans, either, clouding the issue even further. POINT best taken, antibiotics used for animals are an expense. Raising cattle is not easy to earn enough for a living, therefore giving animals antibiotics unnecessarily is foolish and rarely done!

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