Keeping Antibiotics in the Arsenal: Pigs Can Still Get Sick

Keeping Antibiotics in the Arsenal: Pigs Can Still Get Sick

By Ann Hess, editor at National Hog Farmer

When the new FDA antibiotic guidance rules went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, it was a good reminder to all pig farmers that antibiotic stewardship is very important and to strive for reduction in use when possible.

Brad Greenway says his farm’s use of antibiotics has decreased, but it’s not something he plans to take out of the toolbox anytime soon.

“The thing we have found on our farm is we need to have antibiotics as a tool,” the Mitchell, S.D. pork producer says. “I think every producer does their very best to use all the preventative measures to keep pigs healthy but sometimes they still get sick.”

The 2016 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year is just one of the 150 Pipestone independent producers that signed up to take part in the Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker program.

Participating in PART
In addition to the comprehensive antibiotic monitoring system, the Greenways have built a solid working relationship with their veterinarian through their participation in PART. The veterinarian not only oversees the pig health program at their farm, but also at the 13 other Davison County farms that cooperatively own Bluestem Family Farms. Managed by Pipestone Veterinary Services, the sow farm supplies pigs for the owners’ respective pig farms in the area.

“We know exactly what the health status is at the sow barn, our source of the baby pigs, and what to look for,” Greenway says. “I think that has really been a plus the last couple years, really paying attention to that and being prepared, knowing the health status of the pigs coming on to our farm and then having that relationship with our veterinarian to continue that protocol.”

When a new batch of pigs arrive at either of their two 2,400 wean-to-finish barns, they are accompanied with a current health status report and veterinarian treatment and care recommendations. Each week the Greenways also report back any mortalities and challenges they are seeing. That way the whole group that gets pigs from the sow barn can be prepared.

“It’s that communication amongst the whole group that I think has really been a strong point and helped us learn from each other,” Greenway says.

Biosecurity and nutrition

Besides the increased communication with their veterinarian and the other farms, Greenway also credits their heightened biosecurity efforts for their decreased antibiotic use. Also, having their own feed mill on site reduces outside traffic coming to the farm.

The Greenways also ensure the barns are comfortable when pigs come in to keep stress down and work closely with their swine nutritionist, making sure the diets are balanced and adjusted as the pigs grow.

“From biosecurity, to having the barns prepared, ready and comfortable, to having the right feed, that goes a long way in preventing disease,” Greenway says.

Brad and Peggy Greenway at their pig farm on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Mitchell, S.D. Greenway is the National Pork Board's Pig Farmer of the Year. (Jay Pickthorn/AP Images for National Pork Board)
Brad and Peggy Greenway at their pig farm on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Mitchell, S.D. Greenway is the National Pork Board’s Pig Farmer of the Year. (Jay Pickthorn/AP Images for National Pork Board)

Pigs can still get sick
There’s a lot of different ways to raise pigs – whether that be outdoor, niche or conventional, and there is room for everybody. With the increased consumer demand for antibiotic-free production, Greenway says some farmers are able to provide that.

“I think the message to consumers is if we do use antibiotics, it’s done responsibly, under the advisement of our veterinarians, we document use, make sure we always follow the labels, and we follow antibiotic withdrawal times before delivering the pigs to market,” Greenway says. “We need to make sure the health and welfare of the animal is our top concern.”

It’s a commitment the Greenways have never faltered from, even with all the extra efforts they have made over the last two years to try to lower their antibiotic use on farm.

“As a trend over the last two years, we have seen a decrease, but as producers we need to recognize each group is different, each stress challenge is different, and things can happen,” Greenway says. “Be prepared for that and make sure that we continue to have antibiotics as a tool when needed because walking into a barn and seeing pigs challenged is disheartening to any pig farmer.”

Dr. Dee’s Research Provides Undisputable Evidence for Resposible Use of Antibiotics

Dr. Dee’s Research Provides Undisputable Evidence for Resposible Use of Antibiotics

On December 6, 2018, the first large-scale scientifically validated trial to better understand the importance of responsible antibiotic use in clinically sick pigs was published in PLOS ONE, the Public Library of Science. This journal is #1-2 in the world as it pertains to publication of medical science.

The trial sought to compare pigs raised according to one of three antibiotic protocols:

1. TI: Population treatment. All pigs received treatment on days 4 and 21 and therapeutically thereafter as group medication in water and feed or by individual injection.
2. T2: Modified population treatment. Identical to group T1 but with mass treatment only on day 4 and without subsequent therapeutic feed medication. There was a total of 675 pigs in this group.
3. T3: Antibiotic-free (ABF) regimen. There was 702 pigs in this group.

All pigs were vaccinated with a modified-live porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) vaccine 3 days after weaning. Using a seeder pig model to mimic real world infection scenarios, pigs were contact-challenged with a very potent PRRS virus.

Less pigs died in the groups that received antibiotic treatment when sick (T1 and T2 groups 20.94% and 24.89%, respectively versus the Antibiotic Free group 57.98%.) At finishing, average daily gain (ADG) and mean feed conversion ratio (FCR) were significantly better (p < 0.05) for TI and T2 groups compared to the “Antibiotic-Free” group, meaning more pigs gained properly with the feed they were fed because they felt better. Take out the piece about profit if going on PART website— we care about pigs, not profits here.

Under the conditions of this study, these results indicate that when infected with PRRS virus and exposed to other bacterial co-infections, an pigs NOT given antibiotics are at a considerable higher mortality risk and that judicious use can significantly improve animal health and well-being.

As veterinarians, Pipestone is proud to deliver science-based justification for the responsible use of antibiotics when treating sick livestock populations, to help our team make the best recommendations to help sick animals as possible. Please discuss with your veterinarian and/or contact me directly. Thanks for your support of PART.

Scott Dee, DVM MS PhD Dipl;ACVM

To view the entire publication, click here.

For the Love of Science…. and a Delicious Burger!

For the Love of Science…. and a Delicious Burger!

header-9778Fact: Using antibiotics responsibly is an important part of the welfare of our animals, food safety, and sustainability.

Science is an amazing tool that helps us to understand how AND WHY things work throughout the universe.  Science uses standardized methodologies, a strict level of testing, and enforces repeatability.  But science can be a difficult topic to communicate.

Unfortunately, some try to make something look scientific to have the illusion of credibility.  Take for example the new report by the NRDC on “How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Antibiotic Use in Their Meat Supply Chains”.

When you first read the media coverage on this report, you get the impression that they either found antibiotics in the meat at 22 of the 25 burger restaurants they evaluated or they have intimate knowledge about how much antibiotics are being used at the farms sourcing these restaurants.

But upon further review, this is not the case. It becomes clear that they are actually evaluating the written antibiotic POLICIES of each fast-food burger joint included in the report – with two receiving an A, one receiving a D-, all others receiving an F.  When you dig into the 63 page report, you learn that the only two restaurants that received an A source beef raised without antibiotics. It quickly becomes apparent that a good grade is awarded to restaurants who support farms that do not use antibiotics.

Despite my frustration with the misleading messages and scare tactics used in this report, I share a concern about antibiotic resistance.  With this in mind, I want to clear up a few false rumors that seem to be spreading around:

Truth: The meat that you purchase at a burger joint or your local grocery store are safe.  All animals that receive any antibiotic treatment MUST go through a waiting period prior to being harvested for food to let the antibiotic leave their system.
Truth: Unhealthy animals can carry more bacteria. Through responsible antibiotic use and keeping our animals healthy, there is less risk of bacteria contaminating our food.
Truth: The farms that I have the privilege of working with taking antibiotic treatments seriously. Farmers and veterinarians are committed to using antibiotics responsibly.  Using antibiotics responsibly means using antibiotics to treat animals if they are ill and to stop illnesses from spreading.
Responsible antibiotic use is the right thing to do for the welfare of the animals in our care AND sustainability of a safe & wholesome food supply.

Antibiotic resistance is real and so are the many scientific factors that play into the big picture of a safe food supply.  As a mother and veterinarian, I love science – and I love sharing a good burger with my family!  I urge you to PLEASE read to learn, listen to understand and don’t take media reports at a glance or half-truth headlines.  Dig deep, seek to understand – American farmers are feeding you safely every day.

If you have any questions regarding responsible antibiotic use please speak with your Pipestone veterinarian.

Carissa Odland, DVM

Veterinary Community Focuses on Antibiotics

Veterinary Community Focuses on Antibiotics

By: Dr. Carissa Odland

In March, I made a trip to San Diego for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual meeting.   This meeting was attended by 1200 leaders in the swine industry to talk about our passion – taking care of pigs.

One of the main topics that were discussed was antibiotics.   Several of the presentations around antibiotic use in pigs – everything from disease prevention practices to avoid the need for antibiotics to farmer experiences on a “Never Ever” Antibiotic Program to the welfare implications of raising pigs without antibiotics.

You know when the swine veterinary community is spending a significant portion of their annual meeting on a topic – it is an area that we are deeply committed to and passionate about.  There are three reasons why we use antibiotics in veterinary medicine – 1) to treat disease, 2) to control disease and 3) to prevent disease.  The third reason (“prevention”) is being scrutinized with some critics calling this unnecessary.  By definition, using an antibiotic for “prevention” is treating an animal or group of animals before clinical signs of disease has occurred – these are animals that are in a high-risk situation for getting a bacterial infection.

So, why would I as a veterinarian prescribe medication for “prevention”?  The veterinarian makes this decision based on knowledge of how bacteria move through a population and the dynamics within that specific group of pigs.  Just as when antibiotics are used for treatment, antibiotics used for prevention also require a prescription from a veterinarian.  It is also important to understand that using an antibiotic for prevention or control uses lower doses than a treatment dose.  Administering an antibiotic prior to the onset of clinical signs can prevent severe illness and reduce the need for higher dose treatment later.  This uses fewer antibiotics overall and improves the welfare of the animal.  I would argue that the welfare implications around antibiotic use are really at the heart of this debated topic.

As we have shared in other blog posts, antibiotics are not the first choice for preventing disease.  During our annual swine veterinarian meeting, new technology and new tools for prevention of disease to avoid the need for antibiotics was also discussed.  For example, biosecurity technology, vaccinations, nutritional additives, and facility design are all aspects to evaluate for each individual farm as part of the disease prevention discussion.

The veterinary community is working together to protect the efficacy of antibiotics for generations to come.  Antibiotics are a crucial tool for maintaining animal welfare, whether it is the needs is to treat, control or prevent disease.  Work with your veterinarian on a disease prevention plan – they can help decide what method (whether antibiotics, vaccines, or others) will provide the best animal welfare outcome for your herd.


Using Data to Drive Decisions

Using Data to Drive Decisions

As popular headlines focus on the potential link between antibiotic resistance and usage of antibiotics in food animal production, it is more critical than ever for swine veterinarians and producers to work together to use antibiotics in the most effective and judicious ways possible.

The use of antibiotic sensitivity information has become an increasingly valuable tool in developing treatment protocols for pigs.

“For a long time, veterinarians have used antibiotic sensitivity assessments to assist in judging with which antibiotic would be effective in treating animals,” said Dr. Cameron Schmitt, Pipestone veterinarian.

Dr. Cameron Schmitt
Dr. Cameron Schmitt

For example, he said, if a barn with 1,000 pigs is experiencing issues with respiratory disease, the veterinarian may order a sensitivity assessment on samples from a pig that has died or been euthanized. A diagnostic report takes three to five days to be completed and typically shows the sensitivity of the organism to appropriate antibiotics.

A sensitivity assessment is conducted in a laboratory where a sample of bacteria from an infected animal is allowed to grow in a petri dish or test tube “broth” that contains an antibiotic.

“If the organism grows, we know that it is resistant to the antibiotic. If it isn’t able to grow, the antibiotic is effective against that bacteria,” he said.

Knowing which antibiotics the bacteria are sensitive to is a critical step in determining potential treatments, but understanding the pharmacology of each antibiotic option is also important.

“A certain drug may kill the organism in question, but if it is given orally, the drug doesn’t get to the site of the infection to effectively kill the organism,” he said. “There are several antibiotics that may show to be effective in a sensitivity assessment, but those are poorly absorbed when given orally.”

The combination of test results, animal and barn observations and understanding of how available antibiotic options will work, can provide a veterinarian and farmer with options to make the best decision for the health of the animals.

Veterinarians at Pipestone see potential for antibiotic sensitivity assessment results to provide information that will help not just on individual farms, but in identifying trends in antibiotic resistance on a much larger scale.

“We are beginning to track what we know about antibiotic resistance on a broader level,” said Dr. Schmitt. “If we look at thousands of isolates over time, we may be able to see patterns and trends that will help us get to the science behind antibiotic resistance for both animal and human health.”

The PART (Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker) program launched in 2017 is a first step in gathering important data. More than 180 subscribers representing 3.2 million pigs are currently tracking both purchase and usage of all types of antibiotic products including water soluble, feed additives and injectables.

Gathering and analyzing data necessary to track usage and resistance trends is a significant undertaking. Dr. Schmitt said that Pipestone plans to compile and publish research findings with shareholders, as well as with academics and industry representatives.

“We’re focused on putting science in front of the rhetoric,” said Dr. Schmitt. “We don’t want producers to stop using antibiotics just because someone said they should. Instead we need to build a scientific basis for making decisions that benefit both human health and animal welfare.”




PART: Review Your Antibiotic Use

PART: Review Your Antibiotic Use

PART allows producers to Record, Review, and Respond for the responsible use of antibiotics. Last time, we covered how PART Records and calculated antibiotic use.
Dr. Joel Nerem and Dr. Joseph Yaros cover the top reasons for increased antibiotic use when you are reviewing your PART data.

Pipestone works with FBI on Feed Risk

Pipestone works with FBI on Feed Risk

In December 2017, I presented information on the risk of the transboundary spread of foreign animal diseases through contaminated feed at the University of California Davis College of Veterinary Medicine. The audience included the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Division, the California Department of Agriculture along with several faculty from UC Davis vet school. The FBI took particular interest in the role of feed ingredients as a means of potential agro-terroristic attacks on the US. The Bureau had discussed the idea for several years and the Pipestone data supported the hypothesis that an attack of this type could possibly occur.

The FBI offered the following highlights:

  1. The information presented from Pipestone was considered new intelligence to support the concept of “purposeful” agro-terrorism.
  2. The Bureau was very appreciative of Pipestone’s willingness to share their information for the purpose of serving the greater good.
  3. Pipestone’s current project on mitigating the risk through feed additives was of high interest and will continue to be explored.

Overall, the meeting was a success and laid the foundation for further collaboration between the FBI and Pipestone as an opportunity to further protect our US food supply and independent farmer clients we work for.

When I was a 5-year old boy dreaming of becoming a veterinarian, I never would have thought I would ever work with the FBI! As a gesture of their appreciation for the new intelligence, the Bureau presented me with a “Warrior Chip” (pictured below).FBI 1

Tracking Antimicrobial Resistance: Down on the farm

Tracking Antimicrobial Resistance: Down on the farm

In the summer of 2016, Pipestone set forth the challenge to be global leaders in antimicrobial stewardship. As swine veterinarians, we feel a responsibility to lead the industry with science-driven decisions on how to manage the use of antimicrobials, track resistance, and make proactive changes to practices if increased resistance was shown. With that in mind, we crafted  PART (Pipestone Antimicrobial Resistance Tracker), a tool to measure antibiotic use on farm, as well as to track antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across veterinary pathogens, over time.

My role in this effort is a bit “out-of-the box”, as I tried to develop a means of how to measure pathogens of food safety and human health at the level of the farm. I got my inspiration from a group called NARMS, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Service. NARMS is a federal organization, which measures the level of 4 specific bacteria, known to cause food-borne illness in people: E coli, Salmonella, Enterococcus, and Campylobacter. NARMS is composed of the CDC, which measures cases of food-borne illness in people, the FDA, which monitors the presence of select food-borne pathogens at the level of the meat case and the USDA, who measures these pathogens at the level of the harvest facility.

A few things became very clear to me as I contemplated my approach:

  1. No one in NARMS was measuring at the farm.
  2. I needed to use NARMS-standards on the farm as they were already accepted by the government and the national medical community.
  3. Unlike tracking AMR at the veterinary level, where you post 1-2 sick pigs out of 2400 and send a few samples to a lab, I wanted a more comprehensive, representative sample of the population and its environment.

To help answer, we collaborated with the Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department and Food Safety Microbiology Laboratory at South Dakota State University to craft a protocol to sample both live animals prior to marketing and their environments. In addition, we mimicked the exact antimicrobial susceptibility panel used by NARMS, so we could start to track resistance patterns across the 4 bacteria. Now that we had a set of nationally-accepted standards and a validated sampling protocol we could go to work. I can’t thank everyone at SDSU enough for all their expertise and help with this important project!

To make a long story short, our methods have proved to be accurate and repeatable, not only in swine environments but across alternative environments, such as human waste water treatment plants, playground dirt and companion animal facilities. We can routinely detect our 4 NARMS bacteria and determine their level of AMR. For third-party validation, we have also worked with Drs. Jonathan Frye and Charlene Jackson from the USDA-ARS lab in Athens, GA (who helped set up the original NARMS standards) to determine whether a report of resistance from the SDSU VDL is indicative of the presence of a resistance gene. In other words, if the lab says bacteria are “susceptible” or “resistant” to a specific antibiotic, is it true? Short answer= Yes!

Whew…I realize this is a lot of information BUT I wanted to try to explain the degree of detail we put into the process of sampling swine environments and the collaboration we had with nationally recognized agencies.  As we collect more information, I will keep you posted on what we are learning! Thanks for your support.

PART Webinar: Tracking Antibiotic Resistance

PART Webinar: Tracking Antibiotic Resistance

We are all concerned about antimicrobial resistance (AMR.)  But how does use of antibiotics in livestock contribute to resistance in humans and what steps are being taken to know for sure?

Listen in to Dr. Joel Nerem and Dr. Scott Dee as they review a 15-year history of AMR data, along with ongoing Pipestone research trials.