When I talk to people who have questions about what I do on my family’s farm, one topic I’m frequently asked about is antibiotic use.
Each year, more than 600,000 turkeys pass through our turkey farm. We raise them until they are six weeks of age, before our flocks are moved to a turkey grow-out facility.
We care for our flock at the time when it is most vulnerable to disease. I did not take long in my career to figure out that the key to growing turkeys, and reducing the need for antibiotics, is to create a comfortable growing environment. Proper housing, good ventilation and biosecurity measures all play a role in creating a safe, clean and comfortable environment for our turkeys.
Sometimes, however, turkeys on my farm do get sick and they require antibiotics from our veterinarian. When this happens, I am legally and ethically obligated to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for the use of antibiotics on farms and ranches. This means administering antibiotics as prescribed by our vet and following the FDA’s guidelines so as not to stress the animal, harm the environment or negatively impact human health.
The public is concerned that antibiotic resistance is the result of using these drugs in animal agriculture. That’s why farmers, ranchers and veterinarians are working to implement the FDA’s policy to phase out growth-promotion usage of medically important antibiotics.
Having been a turkey producer for over 20 years, I have seen many changes in the way we raise and handle our flocks. In 1994, when we placed our first flock of 60,000 turkeys in houses, using antibiotics was a far more common practice than it is today.
I know that you may be asking yourself: How can you eliminate the need for antibiotics simply through new FDA policies and by making sure your turkeys live in a good environment? The best explanation I have is a phrase that my grandmother used to say to me frequently, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Darrell Glaser is a farmer and owner of Bar G and Reveille Turkey Farms in Rogers, Texas. He is part of the Faces of Farming and Ranching program for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.