Thursday, December 22, 2016
Herbal intervention in dairy farming to curb antibiotic use.
Antibiotic residues in food and milk also have health consequences for humans. In China, a widespread presence of veterinary antibiotic residues was detected in schoolchildren. Long-term exposure to these antibiotics, which may come from contaminated food or water, is connected to obesity. Some antibiotics, such as penicillin and sulfa drugs, also are known to cause allergies in humans, yet these drugs have been found in animal products due to legal or illegal use. The most urgent problem related to antibiotic overuse is the development of drug resistance—when bacteria evolve to become stronger “superbugs” that are able to survive subsequent antibiotic applications. This resistance makes it increasingly difficult to cure bacterial infections in livestock as well as in humans, since many human medicines rely on the same types of drugs being used for livestock. Losing the effectiveness of antimicrobials renders many medical therapies increasingly risky, including organ transplantation and cancer chemotherapy, due to the danger of untreatable infection. A common problem on dairy farms—especially large-scale industrial farms—is mastitis, an udder infection that is responsible for 16.5 percent of dairy cattle deaths in the United States. In addition to shortening the cows’ lifespans, mastitis results in the production of lower-quality milk, with lower cheese yield and a shorter shelf life. To address this and other health problems throughout the dairy industry, many farmers apply antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, around 90 percent of dairy cows with mastitis in the United States are treated with these drugs. In many other countries, especially in the developing world, antibiotics are sold over the counter, and their use on dairy cows is not measured or recorded. Herbal treatments offer a new mindset for health. Rather than simply replacing the one-shot mechanism of antibiotics, the Ayurvedic application of medicinal herbs (like that of Chinese traditional medicines) acts via a more multi-faceted mechanism, centered on restoring balance and regaining the body’s own resilience to disease. Farmers are turning to medicinal plants in recognition of this underexploited and undervalued holistic approach. To address health risks, the government of the Netherlands announced in 2010 an ambitious goal to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal farming by 70 percent, compared with a 2009 baseline. To maintain the quality of the milk while also reducing antibiotic use, dairy farmers looked around the world for solutions. With the help of a Dutch non-governmental organization, Natural Livestock Farming, farmers found inspiration in India. more