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Iowa Hog Producers Could Learn From Danish Pig Farmers

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January 12, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa - The federal Food and Drug Administration is banning a class of antibiotics known as Cephalosporins from general use in livestock.

Gail Hansen, public health veterinarian for Pew Charitable Trusts, favors the decision because livestock producers have long used the drugs not to treat sick animals but to encourage quick growth. She says that practice increases the risks of drug-resistant bacteria causing problems for people.

"It becomes a thing of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and so very low levels of antibiotics really creates more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Then when we need antibiotics to treat ourselves or animals that are sick, those antibiotics don't work anymore."

The practice of using antibiotics to improve the growth of livestock has been outlawed in some countries. Danish hog farmer Kaj Munck, who is to speak Saturday at the Practical Farmers of Iowa's annual convention, says the key to using fewer antibiotics is weaning animals at an older age and separating and treating sick animals. He characterizes the farming practices as abiding by the old Golden Rule.

"So you just treat the pig as you want you to be treated. That is most important."

Agricultural organizations have disputed claims that antibiotics are overused in animals, and that those uses have contributed to antimicrobial resistance.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA