New Approach Helps Pig Farmers Improve Health, Reduce Antibiotics

UK - Pig producers could reduce antibiotic usage and improve animal health and productivity by adopting a new approach which was piloted by the poultry industry.
calendar icon 13 April 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

Following tremendous success helping poultry producers to reduce antibiotic usage, St David’s veterinary team is now branching into the pig sector. The initiative, which will be launched at the British Pig & Poultry Fair, is based on improving the animals’ natural health through a combination of probiotics, organic acids and water sanitation.

“We have spent many years pulling together the latest research and industry best practice from around the world,” says partner Richard Turner.

“Working with the large integrators we have put this into place on a number of poultry farms, with considerable success, and are now rolling it out to the pig sector.”

Antibiotic resistance is a huge threat to human health, and livestock farmers are under increasing pressure to stop using antibiotics altogether.

“As a practice we started looking at antibiotic reduction 10 years ago, and now more than 40 per cent of medicines we use to treat infections are not antibiotics,” says Mr Turner.

“There will always be situations where we have to treat with antibiotics, but in this country there hasn’t been enough time spent looking at alternative approaches.”

Amazingly, animals’ bodies comprise 90 per cent bacteria – in effect people are only made up of 10 per cent human cells. Through its Applied Bacterial Control (ABC) programme, St David’s looks closely at all husbandry factors that influence this microbiome, and develops a bespoke strategy to boost natural gut health and reduce the need for routine antibiotic treatments.

Central to the ABC system is clean water and the Seed, Weed and Feed approach, developed by Professor Stephen Collett from the University of Georgia, USA. This involves seeding the gut with beneficial flora, feeding them by creating the right gut environment, and weeding out unfavourable microbes.

“Bacteria pass down from one generation to the next, so best results involve treating parent stock as well as youngsters on arrival at the farm,” says Mr Turner.

“In the poultry sector adopting such a proactive approach to bird health has helped our clients to significantly improve production efficiencies, and we are now looking forward to helping pig producers do the same.”

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