Livestock production today is efficient and for the most part conducted under the best management available, including close relationships with veterinarians.

At the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose conference in Chicago in October, swine veterinarian Paul Ruen, DVM, Fairmont Veterinary Clinic, Fairmont, Minn., spoke about this relationship and the care that is taken with swine production.

“Farms have gotten bigger,” Ruen explained. “Some farms are owned by a number of families, and 95% of the producers I work with are family farmers.”

Swine medicine has also changed with the times. “In swine medicine today diagnostics are better and we are fortunate to be two hours from three excellent diagnostic labs, and we do a lot of diagnostics at the practice as well which allows us to make quicker and more informative decisions,” Ruen noted.

Ruen says farms and their teams of advisors have evolved over the years. “We have a lot more back and forth with other professionals working with the herds,” he said. “Herd health has changed. Vaccines have improved and there has been a lot of innovation on the vaccine side, though there hasn’t been a lot of change on the antibiotic side.”

Biosecurity has been a huge innovation the swine industry has focused on more in the last 10 years, mostly pushed by the PRRS virus Ruen said. “PRRS is devastating for our industry and can allow a lot of other secondary pathogens to be a problem. We’ve focused on keeping disease out of the farm to begin with.”

Genetic companies have also played their part in eliminating disease and developing genetic lines of new and better pigs.

Regarding antibiotics, Ruen stressed that diagnosis is at the center of their judicious use. “The key factor with antimicrobial use is timeliness,” he said. He explained to the meeting’s attendees that the routes of antibiotic administration in pigs are injectable or oral through water or feed.

Administration of antibiotic injections is targeted right behind the ear, in front of the should or behind the neck. “The challenge is correct administration and we focus a lot of training and setting pens up properly to do it right,” Ruen added.

Health plans are dynamic like disease is, Ruen said. “We use antibiotics when we have to.”