COLUMBUS, Ohio - A change in Ohio's exhibition livestock laws now allows producers to legally use an FDA-approved feed additive in their show pigs.
But Ohio State University animal science researchers said users shouldn't go hog-wild when administering the product.
In June, the Ohio Department of Agriculture rescinded Ohio Administrative Code Section 901-19-20 of the Tampering Exhibition Rules to legally allow exhibitors to use Paylean in their show hogs. The section, which stated that animals would be disqualified if they tested positive for a beta-agonist, was already in place when the Federal Drug Administration approved the use of ractopamine (commercially available as Paylean) in hogs in 1999. Paylean is a beta-agonist, designed to make an animal leaner and more muscular, as well as improve feed efficiency.
"Its use in hogs for exhibition in Ohio was technically forbidden under this paragraph even though the original intent of the rule was not to prohibit the use of an FDA-approved agent," said Gary Bowman, an Ohio State Extension veterinarian with the College of Veterinary Medicine. "When Paylean was approved for use, that section just got overlooked until a county agent recently brought it to ODA's attention." Although Paylean can now be used for competition, Steve Moeller, an Ohio State hog specialist, stressed the importance of properly following the label.
"There is still a lot of misconceptions about what it is and what it does," said Moeller. "If you're looking to increase the growth rate of your pig or need to improve carcass leanness, then it's probably a judicious use of the product. It should be used in a manner that is consistent with a particular strategy and not something done for no real reason or not thought out clearly." Paylean, the first beta-agonist approved by the FDA for use in food-producing animals, is widely used in commercial hog production for the economic benefit of bringing a pig up to market weight quicker, improving efficiency of production and improving carcass value.
Concerns have been raised, however, of its use in the show ring as merely a competitive tool to produce the lean, muscular characteristics judges look for.
"The potential exists for heavy misuse of the product," said Moeller. "As exhibitors plan to use Paylean in their pigs, they must understand how much faster their pig may grow and how much leaner and heavier muscled they expect it be by fair time." Paylean should be fed to finishing hogs where the group average weight is between 150 and 240 pounds. The approved feeding rate is 4.5 to 18 grams per ton of complete feed for approximately 28 days prior to harvest.
"People think that if they can feed their pigs 18 grams per ton, then a little more won't hurt," said Moeller. "The problem we often see is pigs that are fed Paylean get too heavy too quickly, and to make fair weight the pig must be held back. This becomes a holding project instead of a growing project, and as a result, people limit the feed, but continue to give Paylean to try to maintain that muscular shape without making the pig grow. The benefits of Paylean then just becomes counteractive." Also, feeding pigs more than 18 grams per ton of feed is illegal.
Moeller added that Paylean should not be top-dressed, or placed directly on feed as a raw product. "It's clearly not supposed to be administered as a Type A, top-dress. That's an illegal use of the product," he said. Paylean is also not to be used in breeding pigs, during a time of feeder pig weight or in other animal species.
Bowman said that exhibitors should also be aware of the potential for downer syndrome when pigs are fed too high levels of Paylean. With downer syndrome, the muscles of a stressed pig no longer function properly, affecting the animal's motor functions.
"Simply, the pig will go down and not be able to get back up," said Bowman. "The pig has so much muscle that it's too stiff and not able to move." Many other factors, such as environmental situations and genetics, and interactions among various factors, can contribute to downer syndrome, but research has shown the condition may also be associated with pigs that are fed Paylean and not handled properly.
"In commercial hog production, downer syndrome leads to significant economic loss because the pig is no longer marketable and downers create animal welfare concerns for the entire industry," said Moeller. "In exhibitions where pigs are presented to the general public and exhibited in a competitive arena, a primary concern is welfare of the pig." Tips exhibitors can follow to help minimize the potential for downer syndrome include keeping pigs separated, transporting them in small groups, acclimating pigs to unfamiliar, noisy environments, wetting pigs down before moving them and keeping transportation vehicles well-ventilated.
"We can reduce the amount of downers by practicing good production techniques and handling the pigs as gently as possible," said Moeller. "The better the pigs are handled, the better off they are going to be and by emphasizing good management practices, the better animal welfare advocates we'll be as well." For more information on the 2002 Livestock Tampering Exhibition Rules log on to http://www.state.oh.us/agr/addl/tamper.htm.