Benefits and Risks of Antibiotics
There are many issues that producers face in their practices today. One of these issues concerns the widely accepted use of antibiotics in livestock feeds. There are benefits and risks associated with this use. These issues impact not only the animal industry; the repercussions are seen on a much larger scale in the general public. This paper will give an overview of both the pros and cons of this issue.
Antibiotics have been approved for use in livestock feed for over 30 years. This includes a variety of different antibiotics that are added to the feed at sub-therapeutic levels. There are strict guidelines that limit the amount of antibiotic to no more that 200 grams per ton of feed. Each antibiotic also has a minimum and/or maximum amount set. Antibiotics are widely used in all areas of the animal industry. They are most prevalent in swine, poultry and beef rations.
Antibiotics are invaluable to the producer. There have been numerous studies that show growth promotion and increased feed efficiency (a.k.a.: nutrient conversion) are achieved by using antibiotics in the feed. All industries can benefit from antibiotic use. For example, 100% of poultry producers add antibiotics to their rations for increased feed efficiency in growers and increased egg production in layer hens. Feedlot cattle are fed antibiotics to reduce the incidence of liver abscesses - a major money loss at slaughter.
There are many who argue that the practice of including antibiotics in feed leads to drug resistant bacteria. The research done on this topic is inconclusive. Some producers are trying to get around this problem. These producers implement a gradient-feeding regimen. This is where the antibiotic levels are gradually increased over a period of time. This makes it unlikely that bacteria will become resistant. Drug resistance in our animal populations is also a slower process. This is due to the fact that these populations have a much higher turnover rate than human populations - a beef cow just does not live more than a few years at most. Lastly, if antibiotics were not used in feed, the reliance on therapeutic levels of antibiotics would increase. This would not solve the problem of resistance, because the antibiotics are still being used, but at much higher levels.
Residues are another big issue involved in antibiotic feed use. Residues are any antibiotic or antibiotic metabolite that remains in an edible product. It is important to note that regulatory agencies do not have a zero tolerance policy on this issue. Low levels of residues are allowed in tested products. This said, it has been found that most residues are not even found in the muscle, which is the most common part of an animal found on the market. These residues can be found in tissues such as the kidney and liver, where they are cleared more slowly. Each species also has monitoring and enforcing branches that keep...