October 2009 Issue

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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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REGULATING ANTIBIOTIC AND ANTHELMINTIC USE

The Federal Drug Administration and other departments of government, both federal and state, have for several decades been slowly and step-by-step removing direct access to medications from livestock producers. The stated reasoning has been that government seeks to limit public health risks and preserve the effectiveness of various medications. There is evidence that certain medications have specific meat and milk withdrawal timeframes when given to livestock, and the belief is that such residues may pass into the human food chain, negatively impacting the effectiveness of such medications when given to cure illnesses in humans. Government agencies like to point to the ineffectiveness of penicillin in some humans due to overuse in the past.

Unfortunately the heavy hand of government regulation tends to take a one-size-fits-all approach to such regulations, and regulators too often have little to no experience in the areas that they are regulating. This leads to lobbying by special-interest groups like veterinarian associations that would like to limit administration of medications to their members who can earn fees for doing so.

Some drug companies may well take the position that this also benefits them by sharing the risk of product liability with the veterinarian performing the work. Veterinarians generally have *deeper pockets* should they be sued than does the average goat producer.

Some of these regulations are absurd. Sterile water is a prescription product, for example. Other regulations have mightily infringed upon citizens' freedom. Seven percent iodine was taken off the market in 2007 because illegal drug makers use it as an ingredient. Several years ago, suphedrine of a strength great enough to help with human allergies was made a behind-the-counter product for which the purchaser must provide identification -- again because of illegal drug makers using the product. Guaifenesin-based cough syrups had the same fate. These cough syrups work wonderfully on both goats and humans. Yet it is very difficult if not impossible in most locations to purchase them.

If the producer refuses to believe that most of these regulations are intended to usurp our freedom and liberty while increasing the power of government, then at least we can agree that they are often poorly thought out. I have long questioned the concern for anthelmintic withdrawal in meat or milk destined for human consumption. Humans in the United States of America don't consume dewormers, so how can anthelmintic residue hurt us? The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has said that its researchers are “unable to find data directly implicating subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in livestock with illnesses in people.” An earlier report from NAS ruled: “The assertion that… antibiotics in livestock feed are hazardous to human health has been neither proven nor disproved.” Scientists from an NAS panel told The New York Times in 1998 that such a ban in agriculture “would cost consumers $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion a year in higher prices for meat and other foods.” In addition, they said, animal diseases might become more widespread without the regular use of antibiotics, thereby increasing the risks to human health. The Food and Drug Administration already regulates all farm antibiotics, and regularly inspects all manufacturers of “medicated” animal feed.

The best answer I have ever received from knowledgeable people is that it was done as a "feel-good, don't take chances just in case there might be a problem" sort of regulation. Not for human safety but for human feel-good-ness. Government has to show it is doing something for us, doesn't it, to justify all of the freedom and money that it extracts from us?

Regardless of the reasons for which these regulations exist, the fact is that they are not likely to be reversed in the near future. So we as producers find it incumbent upon ourselves to properly and effectively use medications with our goats so that we can prove that additional regulations, when proposed, are not needed.

It does not help our position that too many meat-goat producers are raising their animals in areas so wet and so crowded that internal parasites (particularly the barberpole stomach worm) are rampant and producers are deworming over and over and over again in an attempt to get control of this situation. The result is the development of "super worms" that are resistant to multiple classes of dewormers. This same practice of overuse extends to antibiotics, giving regulators justification to remove from goat producters the products that they need to keep their animals healthy. Except in certain fairly rare cases, antibiotics should not be used unless fever is present, yet producers regularly run for the penicillin or oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200) before determining the body temperature of the goat.

We producers are setting ourselves up for further regulation if we fail to properly use the medications available to us. We need to use these medications wisely and under the guidance and oversight of our established veterinary relationships. Only then can we truthfully state that we are not contributing to a "problem" and can work to stop this too-often-unwarranted intrustion into our lives by government.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
ONION CREEK RANCH 10-09

 

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