Antibiotic use is falling sharply in the poultry industry, according to the results of a new survey.

In the final quarter of 2018, more than 80 percent of the poultry producers included in the WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index survey said they are not using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics on their poultry operations.

As part of the quarterly survey, WATT Global Media is asking additional questions about the state of the industry as well as emerging trends, technologies and challenges. This blog post reflects the results of supplemental questions included in the fourth quarter 2018 survey conducted in November. The next installment of Dr. Greg Rennier’s column reflecting the results of this survey will be published in the January 2019 issue of WATT PoultryUSA.

Antibiotics use

The poultry industry, and animal agriculture as a whole, are facing increasing pressure to reduce antibiotics use or remove antibiotics from their growing programs entirely. Consumers in the U.S. continue to fret about antibiotics in the food chain. Growing regulatory scrutiny concerning the use of antibiotics in agriculture is also hastening antimicrobial’s decline in animal agriculture.

According to the results of the fourth quarter survey, 88.8 percent are not using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics.

Those in survey group were asked how they are responding to the shift in attitude toward antibiotics usage by picking one of four responses most closely aligning with their experiences.

11.1 percent responded, “We are using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics to maintain health and improve performance and ionophores.”

8.6 percent responded, “We are not using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics to maintain health and improve performance, but we are using ionophores.”

37 percent responded, “We are not using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics to maintain health and improve performance, but we are using therapeutic antibiotics/treating sick animals with antibiotics when necessary.”

43.2 percent responded, “We are not using any antibiotics or ionophores as a regular part of our growing program, we are on an antibiotic-free or no-antibiotics-ever growing program.”

Avian diseases

A recent survey conducted by the American Veterinarians in Broiler Production identified coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis as the top two disease challenges for broiler production in 2018. Both diseases are linked to reduction of antibiotic use.

We asked our survey group to rank the most challenging diseases and health issues as identified by the same group. The survey group ranked the diseases as follows:

  1. Coccidosis
  2. Necrotic enteritis
  3. Removal/reduction of antibiotics use
  4. Avian influenza
  5. Infectious bronchitis
  6. Infectious laryngotacheitis
  7. Bacterial osteomyelitis of the legs
  8. Gangrenous dermatitis
  9. Novel reovirus