Aside from controlling minor diseases, certain antibiotics increase feed use
efficiency, presumably by reducing the amount of energy spent growing big
crops of bacteria in the gut.
It seems to have something to do with a thinning of the intestinal
layers-of course has not been well studied, but it was found that the
animals absorb more caloric value from their feed. I think you'll have
trouble finding much of a mechanistic explanation, given the hostility
toward basic science research which has persisted now for many years.
They noticed faster weight gain, so they decided to feed antibiotics.
Antibiotics are used in livestock for a higher feed efficiency. The
livestock have a better rate of gain meaning the farmer will not have to
feed the animals as long. What it all translates to is that in these
highly competative times, if the farmer's neighbor is using it he better
use it as well or he won't be farming very long and the other farmer will
get farther ahead and be in a better position down the road to make
purchases such as equipment and additional land and leaving him in a
stronger position all around.
To use antibiotics as weight gaining substances seems bizarre to me. If the
payoff is that the antibiotics we need to fight infection in humans are
losing their effectiveness, is this a choice our society wants to make? It
intrigues me how this issue brings together so many disparate factors.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln alternative crops research technician
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society western organizer
High Plains Ag Lab
3257 Rd. 109
Sidney, NE 69162
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