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How do farmers use antibiotics with their livestock?

Dr. Sid Thakur, Associate Professor, Population Health and Pathobiology, NC State College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Sid Thakur, Associate Professor, Population Health and Pathobiology, NC State College of Veterinary Medicine

Being out in the research/outreach field I get asked questions regarding antibiotics in our animals. One farmer answered “you would not want to eat a sick – poultry/beef/swine” Can you give some insight on antibiotics? Animal production?

Dr. Thakur: Antimicrobials are used for prophylaxis (disease prevention) and herd health management. Antimicrobials should be and are used judiciously by farmers following the recommendations provided by the federal agencies. Antimicrobials play a key role in maintaining the animal health and improving their growth potential. Antimicrobials are not cheap to use and contrary to common belief, are not used randomly. An animal is not healthy just because of antimicrobial use, but a combination of multiple factors including good hygiene, strict biosecurity, proper nutrition, feed and water to list a few of them.

Federal agencies like the USDA have created checks and balances to make sure that any animal meat with high tissue residues does not enter the food chain. Regular testing of carcasses at processing plants is being carried out by officials, and producers who do not follow the drug withdrawal period regulations can get cited. Bottom line is that antimicrobial use in food animal production is one of the factors among a host of other factors that play an important role in maintaining and improving animal health and well-being.

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