Consumer demand, public health concerns and new federal rules all are driving the pork industry away from routine use of certain antibiotics. Booths at the World Pork Expo, a three-day event underway this week at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, reflect the move away from antibiotics.
By January 1st, certain medications or uses will be prohibited. Others that were once readily available will require a veterinarian’s directive, which is similar to a prescription.
"Availability of veterinarians for veterinary feed directives is a concern," said Jan Archer, a hog farmer from North Carolina and the incoming president of the National Pork Producers Council, which sponsors the Expo. "There are areas of the country that are not well covered."
Archer said ensuring information about the changes gets disseminated to all producers is another concern, because while it's easy to notify the largest operations, it's more work to reach every small, independent farmer. All pork producers pay into the Pork Checkoff, which funds the NPPC.
At a booth in the Varied Industries Building, the NPPC has a booth where it is encouraging farmers to "pledge to be ready" for the changes.
Several animal nutrition companies were at the trade show, touting their products and expertise to help farmers make the transition.
Russell Gilliam, the U.S. sales manager for Alltech, an animal nutrition company, says to help farmers drop antibiotics, he first needs to know why they turned to the medication in the first place.
"We see it a lot with either salmonella or E. coli, and a lot of times it comes in through the water," Gilliam said. "So we work on a way to treat the water. So it'll actually completely eliminate the need to bring in those antibiotic therapies into the feed."
Gilliam says once farmers transition away from the medication, they sometimes see greater profitability compared to their system with routine antibiotic use.
The National Pork Producers Council anticipates 20,000 people will visit the show, which runs through Friday. Visitors come from across the United States and from Canada, Peru, Taiwan, the Philippines and other countries.