Will Agriculture System Become More Sustainable and Safer?

Several agriculture plights in Indonesia that still requires major improvement

I have written so many articles that in the first paragraph I stated about how demand for an animal protein source will rise along with the growth of the world’s population. However, I am still questioning whether the increasing demand for food will follow by the awareness of our society and every company to create sustainable and environmentally friendly food production without avoiding food safety?

Sustainable livestock production system, especially for poultry production, becomes my research interest and goal if I have a chance to continue to study for a Master’s degree and hopefully more than that. My interest to develop poultry production to become more environmentally friendly because poultry products are the most affordable animal protein among other livestock and less carbon emission. So, I think why not make this better in every way so the consumers will get a safe, affordable, and worry-free about their impact on nature and their wellness?

I know those goals are challenging since livestock and nature are the opposite thing. Animal product is a product that through the biological system, in other words it convert feed that they consume and turn into muscles (meat), egg, or milk in animal’s body. This biological system needs so much external energy to support the production process. For instance, how much water needed to grow feed, animal consumption, until the animal reached a certain age to produce animal product.

Another challenging part in livestock production is antibiotic utilisation. Livestock uses approximately 70% of antibiotic in the world per year. That number surely terrifying since the majority of our society consumes animal product. But, relax veterinarian and authorities have been supervising the withdrawal period of antibiotic to reduce misuse of antimicrobial agent. Indonesian government also implemented regulation to ban antibiotic growth promotors (AGP) more than 2 years ago. This substance widely uses in poultry to reduce gut problem and enhance their productivity.

Reducing antimicrobial utilisation only for medication and based on guidelines for dosage and the type of drugs, will slow antimicrobial resistance that will be harmful for human health. Cited from WHO (2020) website, Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics). We sometimes refer to microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance as ‘superbugs’. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Sadly, based on my interview with one of NGO director on May 2020, in Indonesia, he said that based on their research on 2015, some remote area was lacking in veterinarian who works for government supervision for antibiotic use. Some poultry farmers can get access and use antibiotic without veterinary guidance, and even worse, they have no knowledge in how much dosage for their flock medication. Moreover, those farmers also have no idea that they should wait until withdrawal time is over before they sell their animals’ product. So, you can imagine how much antibiotic residue on animal products in our environment.

The horrifying things do not stop there. Antibiotic that animal use will excreted to their urine and faeces. In poultry production case, after broiler chicken harvested from the farm, their manures will go straight to the vegetable farmers, and they use it as fertiliser. Unfortunately, about 75% of the antibiotics an animal consumes ends up in the manure (Beecher 2018).

Nonetheless, based on the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, there are several ways to reduce or deplete antibiotic concentration on those manures, such as composting the manure, aerobic treatment, conservation practices within manure-amended fields, and also the limitation of antibiotic consumption itself. If farmers, both broilers and vegetable, continually do one of those things before those manures applied as fertiliser, then it will reduce to create antimicrobial resistance microorganism. If not, well... that will be a great shame and massive threats to humans and animals' health.

Finally, from those issues of agriculture process in Indonesia, as a part of this country society, we cannot extremely depend on authorities and complain about everything that goes wrong in our system without doing any positive change. You can start, at least, support to increase Indonesian or world society’s awareness about the importance of Good Farming Practice (GFP) for human, animal, and environment well-being. Or maybe more than that? Together, we can make this world a better place to life.

A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Graduate and Master of Veterinary Science Student. Trapped Between Words and Stories