Antibiotic-free brands, such as Open Prairie Natural Pork, Applegate Natural & Organic Meats, Farm Promise Pork and Niman Ranch, are popping up in meat counters across the United States, and according to Dr. Tom Gillespie, a veterinarian with Rensselaer Swine Services, this shift in production is likely to grow and stay.
“The movement has finally impacted consumer choices in the grocery stores, and ultimately the societal change has given the opportunity for independent producers and even integrators to respond by raising antibiotic-free pigs to meet this new demand,” said Gillespie.
Since antibiotic-free production raises unique financial and health-related challenges compared to producers of conventionally-raised pigs, Gillespie has suggested several tips to help producers remain successful through shifts in management and production styles.
“There are numerous risks that can lead to a higher cost of production,” said Gillespie. “In order to address these issues, the producer has to reinforce biosecurity practices and implement a nutritional program that is designed to strengthen the animals’ natural immunity.”
Russell Gilliam, U.S. swine business manager at Alltech, advises that producers keep their focus on five key areas of production when reducing antibiotic use or making the complete transition:
– The first area is education. Producers are encouraged to educate their team on the health challenges pigs are most at risk of in antibiotic-free production.
– Second, re-evaluate the biosecurity protocol for the operation. This includes examining herd flow, cleanliness, transportation and employee traffic.
– Third, it is paramount that producers establish and implement an effective vaccination program with their veterinarian that supports herd health and safety.
– Fourth, a nutritional platform must be build in your pigs’ diet that includes technologies that will help to reduce the risk of pathogens, as well as work to improve immunity.
– And finally, be ready to adapt. Reducing antibiotics, or implementing an antibiotic-free program, takes time and effort. Make sure there is room in the plan to make improvements in the process.
For more information on Alltech’s antibiotic-free program, visit the Alltech booth #V217 at the 2016 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.