MLC calls for antibiotic reduction in farming

06 May 1998

MLC calls for antibiotic reduction in farming

By Boyd Champness

THE movement against antibiotics in farming is growing momentum, with the Meat and Livestock Commission today (Wednesday) calling for a reduction in their use.

The MLC believes antibiotic use in livestock production should be “cut back”. It said its own findings showed that good animal husbandry reduced the need for antibiotics, especially those administered on a regular basis.

John Pratt, MLC veterinary manager, said: “If healthy animals are given good housing with the correct ventilation, heating and hygiene and good quality feed, there is limited advantage in using growth promoting antibiotics.”

The MLCs decision to enter the antibiotic debate follows the release of two reports last month recommending cuts in their use for livestock farming.

The Commons agriculture select committee report called for a ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in farming, while the House of Lords science and technology committee warned that pre-antibiotic illnesses such as tuberculosis, meningitis and pneumonia were on the increase due to antibiotic overuse. It blamed the medical profession as well as farmers for irresponsible overuse.

John Bullock, MLC spokesman, said the commission was conducting trials on pigs using natural probiotics as a replacement for antibiotics.

The scientific term for probiotics is lactobacillus, the beneficial bacteria found in natural yoghurt and the guts of most animals. Probiotics assist with the digestion of food.

Mr Bullock said the research into probiotics was very much in its infancy and it was too early to tell whether the trails would prove successful.

“We believe that if we dramatically increase the number of good bugs going into the animal these will out compete against the bad bugs and reduce the risk of bad bugs forming,” he said.

“But its too early to tell. Some pig farmers using probiotics are getting some wonderful results while others, who are apparently using them under the same conditions, cannot see any benefits as yet,” he added.

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