Avoid residues in cull sows by using antibiotics responsibly

Farm Forum

Violative antibiotic residues in meat can bring serious problems to your farm. These violations can be easily avoided. Responsible antibiotic use in pork production isn’t a single decision; it’s a comprehensive process that requires consistent care of the animals that depend on you. By asking two important questions, you can help avoid residue violations while protecting your farm and the food supply.

Why this sow?

In pork processing, residue violations are most common in cull sows. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research shows violative residues in the meat of cull sows are nearly three times greater than in finishing hogs. Sow culling and processing isn’t always planned as it is with finishing hogs. Because of occasional unplanned culling, sow treatment and management should be handled differently. Sow production and treatment should focus on individual sow needs versus control or treatment for a room of nursery pigs or a pen of finishers.

“Are you treating the right sow or treating because others in that farrowing date group were treated?” asked Michael Senn, DVM, senior manager, Pork Technical Services, Zoetis. “That question needs to be asked. Broad sow treatment is an issue in our industry. Taking the time to check sow temperature will tell you whether there is an infection and avoid unnecessary treatment that could lead to a residue.”

By approaching sow treatment individually, you can better ensure treating the right animal with the right product. To assist in identifying sick sows and piglets, Zoetis offers Day One Pig Care training. This program teaches pig caregivers at the sow farm about animal-health evaluation and early detection protocols to help pigs get the right treatment at the right time, as well as teaching caregivers how to properly manage newborn piglets to help lower pre-weaning mortality rates.

Why this product?

When choosing an anti-infective product, there are many important issues to consider, such as efficacy, withdrawal timing, product safety and cost. Penicillin is a low-cost option in pork production that is available over the counter, but there are significant drawbacks to consider. USDA reports show penicillin is one of the three most common residues found in pork.

Contrary to the label indications, penicillin is commonly used in sows at a rate five times higher, Dr. Senn said. Extra-label drug use requires a veterinary prescription and escalates withdrawal timing to at least 51 days. In sow use, a 51-day withdrawal timing is problematic, considering the sow could be culled for many reasons and head toward the food chain in a matter of a few days.

“We need to think about total treatment cost, not just up-front product cost,” Dr. Senn said. “There is a cost to nonproductive sow days, which will be required to keep cull sows around during the withdrawal period.”

To help sows recover from illness and provide peace of mind for veterinarians and producers, Zoetis offers treatment options. Instead of penicillin, Dr. Senn recommends Naxcel (ceftiofur sodium) Sterile Powder and Excenel RTU EZ (ceftiofur hydrochloride) Sterile Suspension. They provide the flexibility of multiple on-label uses as well as short withdrawal times in case the sow needs to be culled.

By using antibiotics responsibly, you protect your investment from the risks of improper antibiotic use and protect consumer trust in the food you provide. For more information on Zoetis products and services, contact your local Zoetis representative or visit