Managing the Withdrawal of AGP from Pig Feeds

By the British Pig Executive - Many British pig farmers have successfully made the transition to production without antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs), since the European Union (EU) started banning the use of certain antibiotics as growth additives in the late 1990s.
calendar icon 8 July 2005
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British Pig Executive
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The removal of the remaining four antibiotics (monensin sodium; salinomycin sodium; avilamycin and flavophospholipol), from I January 2006, completes the EU's drive to phase out all AGPs from livestock production. Producers requiring to make the transition to AGP-free production should begin to review management practices now as waiting until I January 2006 will increase the risk of failure resulting in reduced health and pig performance and increased cost of production.

This booklet will support producers in making a successful transition to AGP-free pig production and covers basic but essential steps such as hygiene, ventilation and temperature, water, feeding and stocking density.


Various antimicrobial products including antibiotics have been used in farmed animals for health and growth promotion since the 1950s. However for many years there have been concerns that certain bacteria may be developing multiple resistance to antibiotics, and this could limit the options available for the treatment of disease in humans and animals. These concerns prompted the EU to withdraw AGPs from livestock feed and the remaining AGPs are to be removed on I January 2006, (Regulation (EC) No. 1831/2003).

A number of European countries have already taken unilateral steps voluntarily to ban the use of AGPs in livestock production including pigs. For example, in January 1986 Sweden took the unprecedented step of banning the routine use of feed antibiotics in their pig industry. In March 1998 Denmark banned the use of all AGPs in pigs over 35kg, followed by a complete ban in all animal production in January 2000, including piglets under 35kg.

All remaining antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) will be withdrawn from livestock feed throughout EU on I January 2006 They are:

  • Avilamycin ("MaxusTM")
  • Flavophospholipol
  • Salinomycin sodium
  • Monensin sodium

The general observation was that farmers were not well prepared for the change, assuming that the withdrawal of AGPs would barely affect their enterprise. Few changes had been made to husbandry techniques or dietary makeup. However, it soon became apparent that whilst AGP removal caused few problems in the older finishing pig, the young newly weaned piglet was highly vulnerable to serious gut health problems.

Strategies to cope with the new problems raised further initial concerns as these included increased demand for veterinary prescribed antibiotics and dietary supplementation with greatly increased levels of zinc oxide. Until producers adjusted to the AGP ban, in both Sweden and Denmark, the use of veterinary prescribed antibiotics increased to levels above those prevailing before the ban (see Figure I). However, it is important to recognise that the total usage of antibiotics in Danish and Swedish pig production is now well below the levels used prior to the AGP ban.

Figure 1: Trends in therapeutic use of antibiotics in Danish pig production

Source: DANMAP (1999 to 2003)

The experiences in Sweden and Denmark alert to the potential consequences of removing AGPs from the diets of newly weaned piglets. These include increased levels of diarrhoea, morbidity and mortality, reduced growth rate, increased days to slaughter increased medication and higher costs (see Table I).

Table 1: Loss of health and performance post-weaning following AGP ban in Denmark and Sweden
Denmark Sweden
Increase in mortality (percentage units) 0.6 1.2
Pigs with post-weaning diarrhoea 50% of herds with increased problems Increased from 3.5% to 17.5%
Growth rate Increase of 2.7 days in age at 30kg Increase of 5.2 days in age at 25kg
Additional cost £0.72 (7.75 DKK) per pig produced a n/a
a Exchange rate of 10.7 DKK per £ sterling (as at December 2004).

Further Information

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Source: BPEX - July 2004

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