Survey: Pig farmers aware of, many ready for antibiotic use changes

Survey: Pig farmers aware of, many ready for antibiotic use changes

A recent survey of the nation’s pig farmers by the National Pork Board indicates that 82 percent say they’re aware of the upcoming regulatory changes regarding on-farm antibiotic use.

The survey also found that, on average, 71 percent have a defined record-keeping protocol in place that they follow. That number grows to 83 percent among the country’s largest hog farms, or those that market more than 80,000 hogs a year.

“This level of awareness underscores the real and substantive changes occurring today on how pig farmers use antibiotics on the farm,” said National Pork Board President Derrick Sleezer of Cherokee. “The high level of awareness of the changing regulation is encouraging, but not surprising. The U.S. pork industry is working hard to educate its pork producers about the upcoming deadline.”

DebEmilyhomepage-e1454603109623Sleezer added that the Pork Checkoff has developed and is sharing many new materials with pig farmers to make certain packers, processors and foodservice and retail customers understand how seriously the pork Industry is taking the impending regulation changes.

In the past 18 months, the National Pork Board has taken steps to educate pig farmers on the details of Food and Drug Administration guidance 209 and 213. The rules define how medically important, feed-grade antibiotics should be used to treat, control and prevent disease, as well as the importance of farmers establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The guidance also mandates that medically important antibiotics can no longer be used to promote animal growth and sets a higher standard for on-farm record keeping. The regulatory changes take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Consumers can have confidence that the U.S. pork industry is doing the right thing in regard to antibiotic stewardship,” Sleezer said. “Understanding the role responsible antibiotic use plays on a farm is one of our top priorities and why we introduced the U.S. pork industry antibiotic stewardship plan in June.”

These results, among others designed to take the pulse of U.S. pork production, are from the annual survey of hog farmers conducted by the National Pork Board late last year. In other findings, for the sixth consecutive year, pig farmer support for the Pork Checkoff increased and is now at a record 90 percent – up 1 percent from last year. Meanwhile, opposition to the Checkoff declined one percent to a record low of just 4 percent. These results are the most positive in survey history.

Other survey highlights found that 70 percent of farmers feel the industry is heading “in the right direction,” dropping from a 2015 score of 83 percent. Of those surveyed, 23 percent feel the industry is “on the wrong track.” This decline in optimism is largely due to changing market dynamics outside of a producer’s individual control, according to those surveyed.

Managing hog health and disease continues to be the No. 1 challenge facing pig farmers. The Pork Checkoff’s investment in the Swine Health Information Center and plans to understand foreign animal disease risk and create readiness plans directly address this concern.

Pig farmers’ No. 1 request of the Checkoff is to educate consumers about the safety of pork. This was followed by advertising and promoting pork and opening new markets.

The national survey, based on phone interviews with 550 pig farmers, was conducted in November.