Notes from the field: Antibiotic-free programs

By Doug Hester

It is likely that the debate over the use of antibiotics in livestock production will continue for years to come. Bad science, good science, indifference or not, it appears that Antibiotic Free (ABF) is rapidly becoming the norm. We can pretty much forget about the regulatory agencies threat of stopping the use of antibiotics in livestock production. It appears that the competitive nature of our customers and producers trying to achieve an edge in the marketplace is driving our industry to implement ABF programs well ahead of the regulatory agencies. As there is more and more demand for ABF products and more and more production companies move to ABF, the pressure for all companies to achieve ABF will become greater.

The removal of antibiotics in livestock production will and already has presented new challenges for producers and companies. Everyone involved in livestock production realizes the benefits of antibiotics: decreased mortality, less disease, decreased feed conversions, and increased weight gains to name a few. Removing antibiotics will demand we reduce the bacterial and viral challenges before our livestock is exposed to these challenges.

In poultry production, the best birds we generally will ever grow in our poultry houses are the first few flocks in a new house. This is not because of superior management of the houses. Very often, the first few flocks in new houses are with a new producer who has no experience raising birds. Most will agree that the superior performance is due to little or no bacterial or viral challenges in the houses. Most companies have had houses vacant of birds for extended periods of time for some reason or another. When production resumes in these houses, usually the performance will be exceptional. Again, it is because the time vacated allowed the bacterial and viral challenges to become reduced.

The challenge, therefore, is how to achieve this clean environment flock after flock. We all know that extended vacant time between flocks is costly and producers cannot afford extended out times. The question then becomes, ‘how can we achieve the desired environment and remain cost effective?’

Unfortunately, there has never been a PM vaccine (poor management vaccine) developed. Antibiotics, cleaners, sanitizers, vaccines, etc, cannot and will not ensure superior performance without good old fashioned management of the environment in which we grow our birds. Air quality, proper temperature, availability of quality water, good litter quality, and available feed must be properly managed to achieve good performance.

At MWI Animal Health, we take great pride in offering not only great products for our customers, but solutions to many of the challenges our industry will face as we move to ABF. MWI has a fully staffed technical service team that is available to work with our customers to develop sound programs. We welcome an opportunity to share the programs we have with you. Feel free to contact your MWI Territory Manager to discuss.

One final note: We, at MWI, also realize that most companies have company veterinarians who develop and implement sound health programs (vaccinations and preventative programs such as coccid prevention). The programs developed at MWI are designed to work in concert with these programs and are not designed to replace or displace them.

About the Author

Doug Hester

Territory Manager
MWI Animal Health
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