Tuesday, December 22, 2015

U.S. economist evaluates antibiotics

Antibiotics as growth promotants yield benefits of only one to three per cent, says Stacy Sneeringer, an economist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

In fact, I doubt even that much benefit because it's a rare farmer, indeed, who bothers to run in-flock or in-herd comparison trials to test the efficacy of antibiotics as growth promotants.

They have been falling out of favour, mainly with politically-correct customers in the food chain.

Only 48 percent of broiler chicken producers continue to use them, 51 percent of nursery hog producers and 38 percent of finishing hog producers, according to the most recent data available.

Sneeringer spoke during a webinar looking at the findings of a recently released USDA report on the economics of antibiotic use in U.S. livestock production.

She said potential effects of restrictions on antibiotic use for production purposes include:

More feed required per unit of weight gain.

Slower growth to market weight.

Higher rates of death and illness among young animals.

Reproduction levels might decrease.

More animals weighing in at the higher and lower ends of the spectrum.

More extensive bio-security and other disease prevention measures may be required.

While restrictions could result in higher costs of production, foreign buyers that previously rejected U.S. products due to antibiotic use may now permit them, Sneeringer said.