Any person that has raised farm animals for all or a portion of the family income know of the importance of antibiotics in maintaining the health, well-being, and productivity of our animals.
"However, like my grandpa used to say, 'the times they are a changing'. We will continue to be able to use antibiotics to treat our sick animals, but there are going to be some changes," said Randy Wiedmeier, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the Guide for Industry 209 (GFI 209) that stated the intention to phase out the use of antibiotics (that are important in human medicine) in animal feeds or water for purposes of growth promotion.
Ionophores and bacitracin are not included in the GFI 209 according to Wiedmeier.
In 2013, the FDA issued the GFI 213 that will eventually prohibit the addition of antibiotics (that are important in human medicine) to food animal feeds on what is called an over-the-counter basis. Instead, these additions will be under the prescription of a veterinarian, which will be called a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD).
"Luckily, the FDA has allowed some time to institute these changes, December 2016. However it would be a great idea to discuss these upcoming changes with your veterinarian and prepare for them," said Wiedmeier.
Some cattle producers have mentioned to Wiedmeier that on certain pastures and during certain times of the year, having chlortetracycline in their mineral mix is crucial to controlling footrot in their cattle.
"The way I interpret GFI 209, tetracyclines will be included in the VFD requirement. So it is imperative that producers prepare with their veterinarians," said Wiedmeier.
All of these restrictions are focused on preventing antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause diseases in humans. The question has always been who is responsible? Of course, there has been an abundance of finger pointing and animal agriculture has received more than its fair share of attention and blame. However, human medicine is not without blame according to Wiedmeier.
"Sometimes we forget the pet or companion animal industry in this regard. I read an article a few weeks ago that stated that 37 percent of the pharmaceuticals sales in the European Union were for companion animals," said Wiedmeier.
However, when it comes to antibiotic use in farm animals, Wiedmeier says the industry and producers must consider our consumers.
"Consumers are concerned about this subject. I recently heard that McDonald's and Costco are going to purchase their poultry and meat from sources that respected these antibiotic restrictions. The old saying that "the customer is always right" may not be entirely true, but the first law of economics indicates that you must have a market," said Wiedmeier.
Source: University of Missouri Extension