Sunday, December 26, 2010

My stance on antibiotics - changing.

I've been wrestling with antibiotic use on farms, both in the industry and on my own farm.  It has been common practice in industry to use constant, low doses of antibiotics to increase the weight gain of pigs. 

In my own farm I've been reluctant to use antibiotics for any reason.  Some of that is because I've been a bit skeptical about our ability (as a society) to determine which drugs are harmless.  From my layman's point of view it seems that every year there's a different drug that was thought to be beneficial but turns out to be harmful, sometimes in unintended ways.  Thalidomide, anyone? 

So the vast majority of my animals don't see drugs of any sort.  I don't feed medicated feed.  I do vaccinate the animals against common diseases -- my farm is in a major flightway for wild waterbirds and it's surrounded by essentially wild land, so I vaccinate the livestock and farm dogs and myself as a precaution, but I've resisted the use of antibiotics as much as I can. 

The problem is the little guy that is in the picture, above.
I'm going to guess that this would started as a small cut or puncture, maybe from a litter mate; a squabble over a nipple, for instance.  It progressed into an abscess, that broke and drained, but in doing so removed quite a bit of the piglets cheek.  Yes, it may heal up fine without any intervention.  In fact, the reason that this piglet is on my knee being photographed is that I've got it at the house, and am bottle feeding it and another little pig that had a different issue. 
Click on image for larger version. 
In this case the piglets eye is ok, but currently has scabs that are holding it mostly shut.  The wound is relatively clean, and is healing.  and here's where I'm going to treat this little piglet.  She's getting a shot of penicillin every day per a vets recommendation, and we'll continue that course until she's better. 

No antibiotic use of any sort means that you'll watch animals that could otherwise be saved, die, or you'll be putting animals down that could have been saved. 

So what will I do with this little girl?  Other than the face wound, she's in good weight and appears healthy.  I'm going to notch her ear to show that she's had antibiotics -- to differentiate her from the pigs that have never been treated -- and evaluate her when she's a little bigger and healed as to what I'll do.

I think that a middle ground -- medicating to save lives -- is the tact I'm going to take.  I just don't have the heart to watch and do nothing. 


Across The Creek Farm said...

Good post. I wrestled with this issue with Blackhead in turkeys and using Histostat, a preventative arsenical. It's the only time I've ever used any type of medication with our critters. (for the publication I wrote on it, see

Most problems can be solved with husbandry, and some can't. That's where I'm at now.

Joanne Rigutto said...

In my mind, as a livestock producer, that's the best tact, what you're doing. Medicate when you need to, for disease, parasitic infestation, wounds, etc. Keep track of the animals that have been medicated, and maybe let the customer decide, after you've explained what was used, how it was used, and why.

That's one reason why I will never be organic certified. While I don't believe in chronic low dose use of antibiotics and antivirals, I also believe that their use in a case like this piglet's is completely appropriate. It's what drugs like penecillin were invented for in the first place.

StefRobrts said...

I don't see anything wrong with using drugs when necessary. Using them constantly as a way to get away with bad husbandry practices like overstocking is another matter entirely.

Across The Creek Farm said...


The National Organic Program prohibits withholding medicines including antibiotics to prevent loss of certification on sick animals if their life is in jeopardy.

The producer is required to administer the appropriate drug and that particular animal must be sold as conventional.

sheila said...

Prophylactic use of antibiotics is what I have a problem with. Using them the way you are is exactly how I farmed years ago. I would have no problem eating a pig that had been given medication as a piglet to treat a specific problem. By the time pig is grown and processed any drug residues would have long cleared her body.

damae said...

I agree with sheila! However, I have found that many herbal remedies are just as efficacious as drugs if not better, and a w h o l e lot cheaper. So like for that lil piggy, I would put some peroxide, racv and crushed garlic cloves in his water supply. On the wound itself, I would put some Super Salve (have healed maggot infested gangrene with that) or a mix of slippery elm bark, garlic oil, olive oil, cod liver oil, evening primrose oil, along with fresh raw milk or water. it's gooey and sticky and will stick to a wound that you cannot keep a bandaid on. Or just simply drip some garlic oil on the wound. Totally healed an infected wound on a cat with the garlic oil drip that the vet would have charged me $300 to treat.