Mitigating disease – antibiotics on the farm

Disease mitigation strategies include a variety of practices including vaccination, preventive treatment as well as biosecurity and husbandry practices. Administering vaccinations is a necessary and important step in maintaining the health of not only individual animals, but all of the pigs on the farm. Combining the use of vaccines along with strict biosecurity measures is very effective in maintaining pig health.

Antibiotics are just one of many tools used to uphold Good Production Practices (GPP) to raise healthy farm animals. They are used to prevent, control or treat illness in pigs. Animals on farms, just like people in homes, get sick and without antibiotic treatment, many of these animals would suffer needlessly.

In some instances, outbreaks of treatable animal health issues are detected or expected in certain groups of animals or at certain times in their lives. In these cases, use of drugs approved for prevention or control of the disease can dramatically reduce the extent of the disease outbreak. Preventing or controlling the spread of disease is critical to keeping animals safe and healthy—and to prevent suffering or unsafe conditions.

Veterinarians play a key role in disease mitigation. Whether it be to prevent, control, or treat disease, veterinarians provide key insight on the development of the herd health plan and antibiotic protocols. U.S. pig farmers are encouraged to include their veterinarian in the discussion when developing and/or adjusting a given herd health plan.

Using antibiotics to care for sick pigs

America’s pig farmers work closely with veterinarians to ensure that their pigs stay healthy. However, at times pigs need medical attention, which may require the use of antibiotics to treat illness. Responsible antibiotic use means using only what’s necessary for pig health. This sensible approach means doing what’s best for animal well-being, food safety and the environment.

When farmers use antibiotics as prescribed by a veterinarian, pigs tend to give birth to healthier litters, get sick less often and recover faster, and suffer less premature death due to illness.

It is inevitable that in every swine production system, animals may become injured or ill. Euthanasia may be the best option to provide for the well-being of the individual animal. Additionally, applying a standardized protocol of timely euthanasia can minimize loss associated with the continued care of compromised pigs.

Antibiotic principles outlined in PQA Plus

Principle 1: Take appropriate steps to decrease the need for the application of antibiotics.

Principle 2: Assess the advantages and disadvantages of all uses of antibiotics.

Principle 3: Use antibiotics only when they will provide measurable benefits.

Principle 4: Fully implement management practices described for responsible use of animal health products into daily operations.

Principle 5: Have a working veterinarian/client/patient relationship and follow the responsible antibiotic use guidelines.

RWA Self-Assessment Tool