Montana farmers react to FDA's plan to reduce antibiotic use in animals


By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter,
POSTED: 10:26 PM Dec 12 2013   UPDATED: 10:41 PM Dec 12 2013
Montana farmers react to FDA's plan to reduce antibiotic use in animals
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday they are moving toward phasing out the use of some antibiotics in animals processed for meat.

Phil Veltkamp owns of a feedlot in Manhattan, west of Bozeman.

"We use antibiotics to treat anything that's sick," he explained. "We do sometimes use a little bit of antibiotics in their feed for a short period of time."

He said they use antibiotics as a preventative measure to help protect their cattle.

"Especially if you have a pen of cattle that has a bug going through it, it's a good way to treat the whole pen and prevent the spreading of the disease," he said.

He said he has to follow guidelines, like a withdrawal period, where an animal cannot have any antibiotics for a certain amount of time before it is slaughtered. But the FDA announced they are asking companies that supply animal antibiotics to stop allowing them to be used for production at all.

Many of the drugs are often the same ones given to humans, penicillin for instance, and there has been concern antibiotic use in animals has led to resistant drug strains of bacteria.

"Giving antibiotics to livestock should only be done if they're very ill," said Susan Brown, co-owner of Amaltheaia Dairy, an organic farm in Belgrade.

Brown and her husband Melvyn explained they agree with the FDA's plan. They don't give their animals antibiotics, unless it's the last option. But even then, they can no longer use that animal for production because of organic standards.

"What we're against is the daily feeding of massive amounts of antibiotics to all stages of the livestock, cattle, pigs, chickens," explained Melvyn Brown.

Veltkamp explained he doesn't have a problem with the FDA's plans either, but hopes he will still be able to use the antibiotics on a small scale for a short period of time to prevent his animals from getting sick.

"The kind that we use it, I hope they don't take it out," Veltkamp explained.

Here's more about what the FDA is asking for: They want pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for those uses in animal production. Animals will still be given antibiotics in life-saving situations, but livestock producers will need to get a prescription for certain drugs.

The FDA hopes to have all animal pharmaceutical companies compliant within three years.