The Farming column with Sam Walton

Being able to use antibiotics was great in the 1950s, but theres now experiments that could help reduce their use.
Being able to use antibiotics was great in the 1950s, but theres now experiments that could help reduce their use.

I can go back far enough to the time when we had no antibiotics in animal husbandry and if we had any scour or diarrhoea in piglets we either threw a grass sod into the pen for them to eat or a shovelful of coal.

That seemed to work OK and as pigs were fatter then and a lot slower growing and not so many together. There was very little stress on them so not a lot of bother.

Penicillin and Terramycin appeared I suppose sometime in the 1950s, just as the national pig herd took off in size and the odd problem like coughs began to appear and the result of being able to use them was tremendous.

We heard about bacteria and viruses, the veterinary profession began to have specialist pig vets and since then we have had a huge number of different of conditions which are all down to either a virus or a bacteria, not only in livestock but humans also.

I read recently of some very interesting experimental work being carried out where certain of these good bacteria could be used to target harmful bacteria in pigs and hopefully reduce the use of antibiotics.

All exciting stuff but the good part of it is that this work could also be applied to humans. Early days yet but antibiotics had to start somewhere.

One thing for sure is that by the 2050s life will be very different again.

However no matter what happens, unless of course a pill can be made from which we can obtain all our nutritional requirements, then we will still be dependent on agriculture for one of the two things we cannot do without, namely food.

The other of course is water.

Think about it.

You can do without anything else if you have to, so remember to support British Agriculture, it will be even more important in the future.