5 December 1997

BVAthumbs-up for digestive enhancer use

By Jonathan Riley

BANNING anti-microbial digestive enhancers is unnecessary, but antibiotics must be managed with care to appease public concern and preserve the benefits of their use for agriculture.

Thats according to Paul McMullin of the British Veterinary Association.

He told a London conference convened by the National Office of Animal Health to discuss antibiotic use, that there was no evidence to support an EU ban of anti-microbial digestive enhancers. They yielded benefits for producer, society and consumer.

Digestive enhancers improve performance by 3-10% so cutting the UK pig and broiler industrys feed use by 300,000t – worth more than £5m – a year and reducing slurry output by 532,000cu m/year.

"In addition to providing employment and revenue for the British economy, food produced is cheaper, less likely to carry disease and is more consistent," he said.

This consistency originates during production resulting in more even batches of healthier animals.

"Animal welfare is, therefore, improved directly because animals carry less disease, and indirectly because effective hygiene measures such as all-in, all-out production can be practiced more easily with even batches of animals.

Dr Mac Johnston of the Royal Veterinary College, London, said that producers should be aware of consumer concerns over antibiotics.

He said that it was possible to reduce antibiotic use to the barest minimum by carrying out a thorough review of health measures.

"Working with a vet an effective health strategy can be devised which can cut antibiotic use dramatically and hence reduce the risk of resistance," he said.

He suggested simple measures such as vaccination programmes and improved biosecurity – disease control – had cut antibiotic use on some poultry units by 40%.

For other livestock classes, he said the aim should also be to develop immunity using vaccination programmes which should be combined with greater diligence at farrowing, calving or lambing.

Biosecurity could be improved on most farms simply by providing foot dips and organising quarantine of replacement stock.

For the vet, stringent efforts must be made to identify the causal organism and to the refer to the widest range of antibiotics available to pinpoint the most effective treatment.

Improved record keeping would help vets devise an effective programme with the minimum risk of incurring resistance, he said.

REDUCING RESISTANCE RISKS

&#8226 Vaccination

&#8226 Immunity

&#8226 Biosecurity

&#8226 Record keeping

CUTTING RESISTANCE RISK

&#8226 Vaccination

&#8226 Immunity

&#8226 Biosecurity