NCBA educates Capitol Hill on antibiotic use in livestock

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WASHINGTON — The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) gave an overview to more than 70 congressional staff members on antibiotics used in food producing animals as part of NCBA’s “Beef 101” educational series.

“Beef 101” is an educational program for members of Congress and their staff, developed to continually educate those on Capitol Hill on issues important to the beef industry. Today’s session featured a presentation by Dr. Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, a clinical pharmacologist with Kansas State University, who discussed with attendees the judicious use of antibiotics in the beef industry as one of the critical tools to prevent the spread of disease and maintain a healthy herd.

“The goal of producers is to manage cattle to avoid infectious diseases. Antibiotics are a valuable resource for treating both human and animal diseases,” Apley said. “Farmers and ranchers work with veterinarians to implement comprehensive herd-health management plans, and it’s important for veterinarians and producers to have the ability to best manage herd health and raise healthy cattle, which ultimately means a safe food supply.”

During the presentation, Apley covered common myths about antibiotic use, such as the misconception that 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States for human and animal uses are used for nontherapeutic use in food animals. In fact, Apley stated, some antibiotics calculated into that total have never been marketed in the United States. He added that a large percentage of the antibiotics used to treat and prevent illness in animals are ionophores, compounds not used in human medicine.

Another myth dispelled during today’s session is that animal antibiotic use is not subject to significant government regulation. Contrary to that myth, all antibiotics labeled for use in livestock production have passed a stringent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process and have been shown to be safe and effective. FDA approves antibiotics to treat specific diseases or conditions at specific dosage rates for a specific time period, and this science-driven process helps protect human health while giving veterinarians and cattlemen the tools they need to keep cattle healthy.

“Producers use antibiotics under the guidance of a veterinarian, and extensive regulations govern the use of animal health drugs. Many factors go into ensuring that veterinarians, farmers and ranchers have access to effective antibiotics to maintain animal health,” said Apley. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright misrepresentations about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle industry. The truth is, cattle producers and veterinarians utilize many tools including vaccines, herd health management, genetics and animal nutrition to continue producing the world’s safest beef.”

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Kansas  |  June, 24, 2013 at 04:38 PM

Overuse of antibiotics is a problems with human and animal uses alike, and the biological arms race we keep escalating is going to lead to some serious LONG TERM consequences. The only relevant question is whether or not sub-therapeutic antibiotic use is increasing the incidences of antibiotic resistant infections, and are the SHORT TERM benefits worth the LONG TERM consequences?

SD  |  June, 26, 2013 at 06:58 PM

It simply makes no sense to claim over-use of antibiotics by cattle producers. Cattle producers living in this day and age understand that it is counter-productive to their own interests to over dose or to improperly dose animals. Further, Veterinarians are consultants of modern food animal producers, and they advise proper usage. If those points don't reach ranchers, costs sure do! Unlike with people who are on health insurance of one source or another, and who demand doctors prescribe antibiotics too often, or when not really indicated, antibiotics for animals costs come directly out of the ranchers' pocket!

Colo  |  June, 30, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Amen, Maxine. I sincerely hope those people in Congress actually heard what Dr Apley was saying. Too many times, preconceived notions are hard to overcome, especially when the lies from activists have been on every (so-called) news program and repeated ad nauseum.

Miami  |  August, 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM

I wondered how if the average person cannot afford most meds for their own 150lb body without insurance or being subsidized, how are farmers feeding those same drugs to 1000lb animals? If the drugs are the same and you need vastly more of them, can a farmer here explain how the pill costs are handled?

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