Recently, Reuters released a second story in its ongoing series focused on antibiotics use on farms and ranches.

Thomas Titus, one of USFRA’s newly named Faces of Farming & Ranching, is a fifth generation pig and grain farmer in Illinois. Here, he shares his story about how he raises pigs in a safe and healthy environment by following good production practices, which includes properly using antibiotics to treat sick animals. 

I may not be able to capture photos as dramatic as a recent article in Reuters, but I can capture the true essence of what occurs on an operating pig farm today. I’m a fifth generation pig and grain farmer, and cultivating our sixth generation to come back to our farm. The discussion of antibiotic use in animal and human medicine is as hot as the frying pan we just cooked a pound of bacon on for breakfast. As farmers, your concerns are our concerns because we’re going to the same grocery stores and purchasing the same foods for our families.

When an animal is sick and suffering, we have the moral and ethical responsibility to care for that animal. Sometimes that means giving an antibiotic. By working closely with our veterinarians, we are able to do it properly. And when I use antibiotics on my farm, I do it correctly. Antibiotics are not cheap. Unfortunately, when I tried to sign up Wilber for the Affordable Care Act, he was denied because he was a pig -- so improper use not only doesn’t make ethical sense, but it doesn’t make financial sense, either.

Reducing antibiotic use is something that we take very seriously on our farm because it’s the right thing to do and we care! Eight months ago, we started using a pig feed ingredient that contained essential oils and other all-natural ingredients (I know what you’re thinking, but stay with me; this stuff actually works.) This feed ingredient does two things on our farm. First, it makes the animal generally feel better and stimulates its immune system. Second, after feeding our momma pigs (sows, as we call them) breakfast, it makes our pig barn smell like a pizzeria. As a result, we have been able to see a general improvement in our animals’ health on our farm, and a reduction in the use of antibiotics in some instances.

Continuing to educate ourselves as pig farmers is something we do to ensure that we are raising safe and wholesome food on our farm. All of our employees have received Pork Quality Plus Certification. Following good production practices is one of the things we do to ensure that we are raising our animals in a safe and healthy environment. We work closely with our veterinarian and only under a prescription use antibiotics; when we do use antibiotics we are using them judiciously and are abiding by the proper withdrawal times prior to sending the animal to market. Knowing our consumers’ concerns, animal agriculture and the FDA have put into place guidance to eliminate the use of antibiotics important to human medicine for growth purposes in food animals.

At the end of the day, when all of the chores are done, we sit around our family table knowing that we did the right thing. We want to have a safe and nourishing meal as much as you do.

In this post, current Face of Farming & Ranching Will Gilmer shares how he administers antibiotics safely. He says, “Judicious use of antibiotics helps us improve our cows' health while ensuring that our farm's milk is safe for your family and mine to enjoy.” Read about the steps he takes to ensure the health of his cows and the safety of the product he delivers.

Carla Wardin, another of the newly named Faces of Farming and Ranching, echoes Will and Thomas’ sentiments. In this post on her Truth or Dairy blog, she shares her thoughts on the Reuters article, and the example of judicious and responsible use of antibiotics she sets on her farm: “My family eats the same food and drinks the same milk everyone else drinks – there’s no way I’d want to be giving them something that was tainted.  I don’t want it for them, and I don’t want it for other consumers.  Label rules are the rules, and that’s what we follow.”

A few weeks ago, Erin Brenneman came down with a horrible chest cold. After “sticking it out” as long as she could, Erin visited the doctor – who prescribed her antibiotics. On her blog City Lights to Starry Nights, she writes about why sick farm animals aren’t left to “stick it out” and are instead treated responsibly and quickly under the close care of a veterinarian. She shares pictures of the treatment cards used on her farm to track antibiotics dosages to make sure the animals are getting what they need and no more, and to ensure that they are meeting proper withdrawal dates. Find out more about how antibiotics are carefully administered when necessary on her farm.

Do you have questions about how and why antibiotics are administered on farms? We encourage you to ask the farmers & ranchers who work every day to make sure that your food is responsibly grown and raised!