PRODUCTION

Animal Health Guide 2021: Use of Antibiotics in Animal Feed


March 23, 2021

Antibiotics are often added to animal feed such as milk replacers, medicated blocks, and liquid feeds or the water supply to potentially help treat bacterial diseases in food animals. Livestock can include poultry, cows, pigs, and more. While the United States is one of the safer countries to eat food, there are always problems and foodborne illnesses that can arise. Antibiotics are also used to promote growth in food-producing animals. The use of antibiotics is not a cure-all and comes with a perplexing world of regulations. We will share why antibiotic use in food animals exists, the benefits as well as some of the issues within the industry.

chickens-eating-feed

What Are Antibiotics?

Humans use antibiotics all the time. Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals. The use of antibiotics either kills the bacteria or makes it difficult for the bacteria to grow. In food animals, there are different antibiotic application methods such as therapeutic use, prophylactic use, and subtherapeutic use. The antibiotics work to prevent and control diseases and also to enhance the growth of the animal.

Antibiotic Use in Food-Producing Animals

Animals such as laying hens often share space with tens of thousands of animals in one location. Medically, antibiotics can be particularly useful to curb loss, both in the deaths of the chickens and money for farmers. Antibiotics in animal feed can prevent huge amounts of death and loss due to the sheer concentration of animals. Diseases can quickly spread in such an environment. Growth promotion and improvement of feed efficiency are other reasons why farmers opt for antibiotic use in animal feed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long approved antibacterial products, but they started to phase out certain types of antibiotics. The FDA is responsible for protecting the U.S. public health by ensuring safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices.

They changed the way antibiotics can be utilized in food animals. The FDA along with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), administers the U.S. National Residue Program (NRP) to prevent hazards to human health from entering the food supply.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the following uses for antibiotics in food animals:

  • Disease treatment for sick animals
  • Disease control for a group of sick animals
  • Disease prevention for animals at risk of becoming sick

The FDA amended new animal drug regulations to state that a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) is a drug intended for use in animal feeds, and can only be used under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The FDA’s directive promotes the voluntary and judicious use of medically important antibiotics for those in the industry who want to protect against antimicrobial resistance.

Industrial Feed Mill

What Is Antibiotic Resistance?

Bacterial resistance is a public health threat. At its core, antibiotics are medicines meant to stop or kill the growth of bacteria. You will mostly see antibiotics in food-producing animals such as cows or chickens that humans will actually end up eating. Animals can carry germs and bacteria in their gut and muscle just like we do. Generally, the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria spread in farms and slaughterhouses to workers during the cleaning and slaughtering process, respectively.

Whether you are a human or a pig, the use of antimicrobial drugs can play a part in developing antibiotic resistance. Feeding these types of drugs is most beneficial when medically important. Antimicrobial resistance and/or antibiotic resistance in animals is considered a human health problem; if animals developed a resistance to certain diseases humans are susceptible to the illness themselves.

Bacteria continuously evolves so it can adapt and survive. There is the chance that use of antibiotics can promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That bacteria can be transferred to us once the treated animal is consumed.

What This Means for Humans

Does this matter? How do you even get diseases or illnesses from livestock? It all starts with the colonization and transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals such as cattle, pork, poultry, and sheep. When the animal builds an antibiotic resistance, there is nothing to stop or minimize the bacteria from growing. Exposure sources include fecal matter, intestinal flora, and the consumption of animal products such as the meat itself. Once exposed, the individual is susceptible to infection and hospitalization, and potentially infecting others as well.

There are a number ways for a human to get infected with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as eating or handling the uncooked raw meat or poultry, coming in contact with the feces of the food animal, or drinking water that came into contact with animal feces. The drug resistant bacteria can remain on the meat when not handled or cooked properly and can spread to humans. Contagion, anyone?

You cannot completely stop antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but you can certainly slow it down. Antibiotic use can still prove beneficial for animal health. Subtherapeutic use of antibiotics means the dose or concentration of the drug is lower then what would usually be prescribed in order to effectively treat infections.

Dairy Cows in Barn

Growth Promotion in Food Animals

There is a lot of controversy out there regarding the use of antibiotics to promote development in food-producing animals. The use of growth promoters and improvement of feed efficiency was introduced decades ago without much testing. Growth-promoting antibiotics, particularly in poultry production, can be associated with economic losses.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended stopping using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent infections in healthy animals, which was directed to farmers and the food industry as a whole. The World Health Organization stated that high volume of antibiotics in food-producing animals contributes to the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

Other Feed Additives

There are a range of feed additives out there such as vitamins and minerals for animals, amino acids, fatty acids and minerals to grow at a healthy rate. Much like how we ingest supplements or drinks with probiotics or other micronutrients, the additives are added to feeding farm animals requiring extra nutrients. However, other additives can include sweeteners, flavors, and mycotoxin binders.

Horse Guard

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{wg.store.city}}

Limited stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Forging a Path Forward

The pursuit of antibiotic alternatives remains ever-present for those seeking a different way to source their food. In order to reduce the looming threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we must find ways to reduce antibiotic use in animal feed and find non-antibiotic alternatives including vaccines or probiotics to keep animals healthy. Vaccines have long been a worthy alternative, but pre-and probiotics feeds are becoming more capable of reducing infections and improving animal performance, such as egg production and growth rates.

Equerry's Sho-Natural Probiotic Topdress, 5 lb.

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{wg.store.city}}

Limited stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Purina Layena Plus Omega-3 Layer Pellets Premium Poultry Feed

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{wg.store.city}}

Limited stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Animal Performance

    • Probiotics are live cultures of microorganisms (yeast, bacteria, fungi) that can be added to diets to improve gut health.
    • Prebiotics< are organic compounds that are indigestible by animals but can stimulate the production of beneficial microorganisms in the gut.
  • Organic acids such as formic, acidic, or citric acids can be added to feed and water and are known growth promoters, although their mechanism of action is yet to be understood. 
    • Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are a promising mode of action that has had much success, especially when used in conjunction with probiotics, which seem to have a complementary effect. AMPs are made by bacteria, amphibians, insects, and mammals.
  • Phytochemicals are plant-derived compounds such as essential oils that can be introduced into animal feed. Studies have linked these with growth promotion and disease prevention.
  • Heavy metals are promising avenues for growth promotion. Heavy metals such as copper and zinc have improved performance in various animals but have their limitations including a potential increased resistance to some antibiotics.
  • Clays and rare earth elements have been used as growth promoters and disease preventers, but proper application guidance is lacking.

Horse Guard Trifecta

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{wg.store.city}}

Limited stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{wg.store.city}} Check nearby stores

Disease Prevention

  • Vaccines are one of the most preventative modes of action in veterinary medicine. These preventative measures can stimulate an immune response without causing a progression of diseases. 
  • Immune modulators such as cytokines, lipopolysaccharides, and some antibodies stimulate a passive immune response, particularly in animals with a strong immune system.
  • Viruses such as bacteriophages and enzymes (endolysins and hydrolases) they produce can kill bacteria and reduce the need for antibiotics used in animal husbandry.

A Holistic Approach to Farm Management

Employing an array of strategies on the farm can aid in disease control and prevention. Part of an effective campaign against illness and/or growth performance is enhanced biosecurity measures. While there will always be a potential risk for disease, getting that risk as close to zero is manageable.

  • Access control: Restricting access to visitors and enacting strong sanitization protocols when they do enter can help reduce disease transmission.
  • Sanitizing everything: Cleaning and sanitizing equipment, clothes, shoes/boots, and hands before entering the property.
  • Bringing bacteria home: Diseases can spread from other farms, feedlots, petting zoos, and other areas where livestock and poultry are kept. Sanitizing vehicles, clothes, and hands is crucial. In addition, a quarantine period of 30 days is suggested for re-entering or new animals.
  • No sharing tools: Keeping a personal set of clean tools is best. Sharing tools (especially with other farmers) without proper cleaning practices can spread diseases.
  • Daily health assessments: Early detection of common diseases is crucial to stop a full-blown outbreak.
  • Report illnesses: In the event of a serious health problem, farmers are recommended to contact a veterinarian or local or federal animal health agencies.

The spread of antibiotic use in animals can be contained through a variety of innovative farm management solutions. Alternatives to antibiotics as growth and health promoters are gaining in popularity and use, but more scientific evidence is needed to provide farmers with real-world guidelines that can be used as part of a complete management plan.

Category
Author
Tags