Antibiotic Stewardship

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The FDA has released its latest report on antimicrobial use in food-producing animals. Dr David Pyburn, vice president of science and technology, and Dr. Heather Fowler, director of producer and public health with the National Pork Board, are featured in this edition of Pork Pod. This report provides information on antibiotic usage and the Pork Checkoff is also investing more money into on-farm metrics.


Don Wick


Dr. Dave Pyburn, Vice President of Science and Technology, National Pork Board

Dr. Heather Fowler, Director of Producer and Public Health, National Pork Board




Don Wick  00:01  From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa it’s Pork Pod! Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research promotion and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff. And today we’re focusing in on the Food and Drug Administration’s 2016 summary report on antimicrobial sold or distributed for use in food producing animals. Our guest to shed some light on this report, National Pork Board veterinarian Dave Pyburn, he’s the vice president of Science and Technology for the Pork Checkoff and also the Pork Checkoff director producer and public health veterinarian Heather Fowler. Dave let’s begin with you. As we look at this FDA report how would you say we should be viewing this report.

Dave Pyburn:  00:53  We were really happy to see this release. This release you got to remember is data from 2016. So this is sales data from 2016 and it shows that in 2016 overall animal ag was reducing their usage and their need for antibiotics reduced to a point that we hadn’t seen as low as since 2009 actually and these records these reports from FDA started in 2009 and since then we’ve seen each year there’s been a slight increase each year in usage by overall animal ag. And this one shows a downturn. And so that that downturn happened before we had the guidance that went into place by FDA on January 1 2017. So this is a good sign. This shows that producers and veterinarians and all of animal ag were working ahead of time to reduce that need and reduce the usage of antibiotics.

Don Wick:  01:46  So Dave you said it’s all an animal ag,  this isn’t swine specific?

Dave Pyburn:  01:50  Yeah. You know they try to do something for the first time on this report this year where they ask the pharmaceutical companies to really make a guess at their products and with products when they when they distribute them went towards swine usage, versus cattle usage, versus poultry usage, versus others. And that that’s really what it is from the pharmaceutical companies is again they don’t know where they distribute for those products that are multi labeled for multiple species. They don’t really know where that’s going to go and where it’s going to be used. So I don’t take a lot of stock in the species information that’s in there I think it’s a best guess that they could come up with at this time I think there’s better ways to get to that and we’re working on that with Dr. Peter Davies up at the University of Minnesota. I think the real the real strong numbers that are in here though are when you put it all together in aggregate and look at how animal ag has responded.

Don Wick:  02:47  Interesting Heather if I can bring you into the conversation how do you see us moving forward and trying to get maybe more specific information particularly as it relates to the species?

Heather Fowler:  03:01  Here the National Pork Board we fund a number of research projects that look at antimicrobial resistance and we have funded over the years a number of researchers that are looking at metrics on the farm. So getting down to that level beyond just that kind of species level that the FDA reported.  But actually speaking to on farm usage.

Don Wick:  03:22  Who are you working with, who’s the Pork Checkoff collaborating with to make that possible?

Heather Fowler:  03:25  So right now we have one researcher Dr. Peter Davies who’s looking at on farm metrics for stewardship reasons. So trying to again get a better picture of on farm usage and modes to improve stewardship.

Don Wick:  03:41  David, as you look at the whole question of stewardship it’s interesting that even before some of the guidelines came into play that some of this has already taken place. What do you attribute that to?

Dave Pyburn:  03:55  I attributed that to producers working closely with their veterinarian’s, taking a look at their operations, determining what can we change on our operations to improve the health of our animals.  I think they’ve taken a closer look at this over the last two or three years. I think some of this may have started actually with the PED outbreak back in 2013 2014 especially when we look at the biosecurity improvements that we’ve had on farms. So I think there’s a number of things that producers and veterinarians have gotten together and looked at in their operation to determine where we can reduce that need, and now we’re starting to see some fruit from that labor.

Don Wick:  04:31  Heather, do you see this as a tool to help educate maybe that non farming public as well about this important issue?

Heather Fowler:  04:38  Oh most definitely. I  think one of the things that we promote here at the National Pork Board is having our producers share their stories and having a metric that producers can use to share how they use antimicrobials on the farm how they work with their veterinarian when drafting a herd health program can really help the general public get a better understanding of animal health and disease and disease control and prevention especially in the swine industry. So one of the chapters in the PQA plus program talks about community engagement and the producer sharing their story. We also have a program Operation Main Street here at the National Pork Board where we train producers and veterinarians on again sharing that story with the public and connecting with the public and really kind of humanizing if you will swine production.

Don Wick:  04:38  Dave and Heather is there anything in summery that we should emphasize here?

Dave Pyburn:  05:34  I think one thing Don would be just to folks out there wanting more information they’re wanting to maybe look at closer their operations or learn what’s happening on these operations as far as how we reduce the need for antibiotics. Take a look at our Web site Take a look at this suite of information we have up there right now on antibiotic resistance and what’s happening on our farms and then of course is always take a look at our Pork Quality Assurance Plus program especially with its current emphasis now on judicious use of antimicrobial on farm.

Don Wick:  05:34  Heather, anything to add?

Heather Fowler:  06:12  One thing I would add in terms of the research front is we’ve had a continuous dedication to this topic of antimicrobial resistance and that is evident in the research dollars that we set aside to promote antimicrobial steward and support researchers that are helping us address this aim. And though in the past decade we’ve dedicated almost 6 million dollars or over 6 million dollars to antimicrobial or antibiotic related studies and this year is no different. We actually have six hundred thousand dollars set aside to fund a number of research projects on this specific topic.

Dave Pyburn:  06:50  I think the last word I’d have Don is that you know this is this gives us some information on usage on the what and how much. But I think the real question that we all should be after is the why and that gets back to the stewardship on the farms. And folks need to understand how those decisions get made on the farm and why producers and veterinarians decide to use the antibiotic that they do use to fight whatever disease it is they have on the farm and how long they decide to use that in a judicious manner.

Don Wick:  07:23  Dave Pyburn and Heather Fowler both from the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself. Visit