Industry Takes Steps to Use Antibiotics More Responsibly for Pigs

UK - The responsible use of antibiotics is to be included in pig industry training, writes Digby Scott.
calendar icon 18 June 2014
clock icon 4 minute read

Increasing resistance in hospitals is causing politicians to ramp up the pressure against antibiotics on farms.

This week, Sweden and Denmark, backed by five other countries, challenged the European Commission to report progress on the issue, bearing in mind that it is now over three years since it came up with a 12-point action plan.

The plan aimed to:

  • curb the use of antibiotics on farms
  • increase research into developing new drugs, and
  • review veterinary practices.

In Britain, the National Pig Association (NPA) and BPEX have now taken the first step towards ensuring pig-keepers can demonstrate they use antibiotics responsibly and in line with Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (Ruma) Guidelines.

Medicines module

NPA Producer Group has added its support to the idea of overhauling the industry's Certificates of Competence, particularly the 'Safe Use of Veterinary Medicines' module, which currently is not pig-specific.

"At the moment it doesn't go into enough specifics to demonstrate competence in the responsible use of medicines," said BPEX training officer, Samantha Bowsher.

"But if you agree, instead of setting up a whole new qualification for responsible-use, we could incorporate it into the existing veterinary medicines module," she told the June meeting of NPA Producer Group.

The meeting agreed with the proposition that although the module in its present form is not popular with employers or employees, because it is not pig-specific, it could be modified to provide robust training in the responsible use of medicines, particularly antibiotics.

Increasing pressure

NPA chairman, Richard Longthorp, warned the meeting there would be increasing pressure against the use of antibiotics on farms.

He said: "When I look at what is coming out of Brussels and Whitehall I feel increasingly that if we as an industry can demonstrate that we are professional in what we do, then we stand a better chance of staving off the worst excesses of legislation.

"It might not always work — it might not always be an alternative to legislation — but I do believe it will ward off the very worst."

He does not want to see the industry's Certificates of Competence used just to meet challenges over antimicrobials.

Mr Longthorp explained: "I want to use them right across the piece for all the other challenges that will come our way.

"If we have systems in place that allow us to demonstrate that we are responsible and professional, then we will stand a far better chance of being regulated with a lighter touch."

Industry strategy

Sam Bowsher told the meeting that Certificates of Competence had been set up in 2005 with the National Proficiency Tests Council as part of the pig industry's training strategy.

Assessments were carried out on farms and required a demonstration of practical skills. Currently, uptake is lukewarm but expected to improve as the modules were made more practical, with unit-specific questions, and no written test.

Producer Group chairman, Howard Revell, said that if the industry was to demonstrate its professionalism effectively, uptake of Certificates of Competence and the Pig Industry Professional Register would have to be improved.

"We have been making progress but it is too slow, so maybe we need a re-branding and re-marketing in order to attract the critical mass we need."

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