Thursday, September 16, 2010

Antibiotics and pigs

I have talked about the use of antibiotics on my farm; generally speaking I'm against it, and I am particularly against the constant low dose of antibiotics that you'll find in most of the animal feeds available.  I'm speaking specifically to "medicated chick starter" and the equivalent baby animal feed. 

With swine, the industry has found that feeding antibiotics to pigs helps they gain weight faster; it allows them to save $1 to $3 per pig in feed costs, but at what cost? 

Antibiotics are wonderful.  There was a time when people could get a cut on their hand and DIE of it.  Infections, prior to antibiotics, were basically the luck of the draw.  After the invention of antibiotics a cut, even major surgery, became something that was much lower risk. 

Right now we're seeing a greater incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, like MRSA.  Why do I care?  We are going back to a time when a cut on the hand could be fatal.  I think that the risk of breeding these superbugs is not worth the estimated price rise of 5 cents per pound that not using antibiotics would cause. 

I don't use antibiotics, and I strongly recommend that other farmers don't use them except in the extreme, to save a life, and to do so under the best advice that they can reasonably afford.  If you can't afford a vet, do the research yourself or see if you can get a vet to counsel you on what the course of treatment is, and follow their recommendations. 

The alternative is to have more and more of these bacterial strains that cannot be treated, and a return to the bad old days.   Most of the science today points to the bacterial strains as having originated on farms where they feed low doses of antibiotics to their animals. 

Here's a NY Times article on the FDAs proposal to strongly limit the use of antibiotics to produce pork. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. I once read this advice, which I find useful- animals which have an infection should always have a fever. A healthy animal can usually fight infection fine on its own. So it's only when there is a fever present, and the animal is obviously having difficulty, that antibiotics become warranted.