Adequate data do not exist for making clear decisions about antibiotic regulation in the hog industry, a key researcher says in a recent IowaWatch story.

“Sales data, in general, cannot provide. . . information on exactly why these antibiotics are used,” Dr. Karin Hoelzer of Pew Charitable Trust’s Antibiotic Resistance Project said. She and the Antibiotic Resistance Project are calling for clearer use data to identify opportunities to reduce antibiotic use in livestock.

But hog confinement farmers say they use minimal amounts of antibiotics in the pigs they raise.

“In the whole life of a pig, the amount of antibiotic that the pig would get via feed would fit in (a) water bottle cap,” Washington, Iowa, hog farmer Heidi Vittetoe said in the same IowaWatch story for which Hoelzer commented.

Meanwhile, Denny Rehberg, a small-scale antibiotic-free hog farmer near Walker, Iowa, is no fan of hog confinement operations. “Did the pig create the environment, or did the building create the pig? I’m thinking the building created the pig, is what we got today,” Rehberg, who raises pigs outside, said.

Finding that proper antibiotic dose is important, in part, because how animals are housed, fed and raised largely determines the need for antibiotics. Outlawing livestock antibiotic use would upend deep-seated practices of most large hog confinement operations.

Another reason it is important: Iowa is home to nearly one third of the nation’s hogs, with more than 22 million hogs at a given time.

Agriculture experts weigh in on the question of proper antibiotic doses for hogs in this IowaWatch Connection podcast.

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