USDA releases baseline antimicrobial use data

NAHMS study reviews antimicrobial use by beef and swine operations prior to FDA policy changes in 2017.

Tim Lundeen, Editor

May 23, 2019

3 Min Read

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has released the results of two national studies that examine antimicrobial use and stewardship on beef feedlots and on large swine operations during 2016, before the U.S. Food & Drug Administration implemented antimicrobial use policy changes on Jan. 1, 2017.

APHIS said the data collected and studied by its National Animal Health Monitoring Service (NAHMS) is intended to help animal health officials — as well as the human health community and consumers — better understand how antimicrobial drugs are used on livestock farms.

The studies include details on what antimicrobials were used, why they were used and how they were administered. They also include data on recordkeeping, decision-making and veterinarian involvement, as well as demographic information on the types of farms included in the project.

APHIS said the main findings of these studies include:

  • The majority of feedlots (87.5%) gave cattle antimicrobials in feed, water or by injection in 2016.

  • The majority of swine sites (95.5%) gave market pigs antimicrobials in feed, water or by injection in 2016.

The main reasons for antimicrobial use on swine sites and feedlots were for animal health — such as to prevent, control or treat respiratory disease — although the reasons for antimicrobial use varied across species, route of administration and age of animals.

The majority of swine sites and feedlots had a veterinarian/client/patient relationship and used the services of a veterinarian in 2016.

APHIS said these studies provide a baseline for how livestock producers used antimicrobials prior to the FDA antimicrobial rule change, which made two important changes to how antimicrobial drugs can be used in animal agriculture. The rule eliminated the use of “medically important” antimicrobials (those that also are used for human health) for growth promotion in food-producing animals. It also required veterinary oversight when using medically important antimicrobials in animal feed or water.

The FDA rule change does not apply to antimicrobials that are used only in animals, such as ionophores.

USDA said the agency will collect the same data in future studies, which will provide information about the effects of the FDA rule change and evaluate trends. The data can be used by beef and swine producers, their veterinarians and the livestock industries to assess which antimicrobial stewardship and use practices are being successfully implemented and where there are opportunities for improvement or change.

Study results and data for Beef Feedlots and Swine Operations are available on the APHIS website.

Dr. Heather Fowler, director of producer and public health with the National Pork Board, responded to the report, noting that “with only 199 sites participated in this study, it’s not exactly representative. Though they did try to get some diversity in the sample by sampling across difference operation sizes and geographical locations.

“As always, we know that America’s pig farmers are dedicated to the good production practices in PQA Plus and the ethical principles of We Care regarding antibiotic stewardship,” Fowler said. “We know we have more to do as an industry, but we’re on the right path as we continue to do what’s right for people, pigs and the planet.”

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