let's talk farm animals

Oranges for cattle?

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and Food Commentator

We’re often advised to drink our orange juice to help stave off infections. It turns out oranges are a good choice for cows too.  And may be just one more tool in the tool box to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance which first began to appear in the 1950s is becoming a serious problem for us humans and for our animals.  While we hear much in the news about the threats of over-prescribing, improper disposal, and improper usage of antibiotics in both people, and our pet and food animals, not much is heard about the steps being taken to resolve the resistance problem without creating new harms.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that overall prescribing rates for antibiotics fell 24 percent between 1993-94 to 2007-08.  There are a combination of factors at play for this over all decline, including better education and awareness. But, education on proper usage of antibiotics is only a part of the solution.  Replacement with non-antibiotic methods is another part that scientists have been researching since the problem was first identified many years ago.

As a result we’ve created new vaccines to prevent diseases that may otherwise need to be treated with antibiotics.  We have new public health standards to help reduce bacterial transmission. We have new breeds of plants and animals that are more resistant to bacterial disease. And we have probiotics, so called “good” bacteria that can help keep the “bad” bacteria at bay.

Agricultural researchers around the world are also looking at feed additives that may have natural antimicrobial affects in livestock and poultry without creating resistance.   In one Canadian experiment, scientists are replacing antibiotics with mixtures of antioxidants and probiotic bacteria. Other experiments include giving animals cranberry extract and trying essential oils as immune boosters.  Dutch researchers are looking at feeding yoghurt to pigs. And feeding garlic has been a longtime subject of research.

This month the results of a US government research study were released that looked at the bacterial benefits of feeding oranges to cattle and sheep. What is not commonly known is that in many parts of the world citrus pulp is a popular diet supplement for cattle. Citrus producers make feed from the byproducts of citrus products, including the peel, pulp and seeds of oranges, tangerines and grapefruits. These products are dried and made into pellet form for use as a diet supplement for cattle.

Now USDA scientists have found that not only do cows actually like the taste, but citrus products added to cattle and sheep  feed help kill potentially harmful-to-humans bacteria in the animals’ intestines. These early studies showed that citrus products provide cattle with good roughage and vitamins, and the essential oils in citrus products provide a natural antibiotic effect against pathogenic salmonella in the gut of ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) according to a news release.

What that means for us is that there may be ways to use non-antibiotics to reduce the germs naturally harbored by food animals that in turn will help create safer food for people.  Getting the benefits of antibiotics without creating resistant bacteria is good for both the animals and us.

Until the Next Blog




Posted by FFC on December 8th, 2011 :: Filed under Uncategorized
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