Slash antibiotic use with a holistic approach

ABC advocates holistic approach to antibiotic use: pig farmers concerned with reducing antibiotic use could learn from practises used in the poultry industry to promote herd health.
calendar icon 2 November 2017
clock icon 4 minute read

Antibiotic reduction is a hot topic right now, following the publication of new targets this week. The poultry industry has made huge developments recently – without compromising on health status – and applying the same principles to the pig sector could provide answers for livestock producers across the UK.

Richard Turner, director at Applied Bacterial Control, was clear in his understanding that it’s not as easy or as simple as just terminating all use of antibiotics, but maintains that it is hugely important for producers to focus on understanding the pig microbiome.

The microbiome is the collective name for the internal and external microorganisms that inhabit animals, and which play a key role in influencing health in livestock. Generally, microorganisms and their hosts survive harmoniously and will evolve simultaneously as the host develops. TABC Richard Turner Quotehis harmonious existence relies on the correct, precise balance of bacteria which, Turner explains, has ‘a direct correlation with improved health status’.

Turner further points out that it is crucial to manage pigs’ gut bacteria as good, on-farm management practice. Encouraging the development of ‘good bacteria’ within the pig gut promotes a strong immune system and reduces the need for antibiotics.

As sows are responsible for the transfer of healthy bacteria to piglets during birth, it’s crucial to also carefully manage the rearing environment. Water management, and proper use of sanitisation products when cleaning and preparing housing, are two areas in need of attention, Turner warns:

Water management is one area to focus on and it’s important to ensure a clean supply and a cleanable water system is in place. As well as this, pig producers should ensure not only that housing is washed down properly but also the correct products are used to ensure all harmful bacteria is removed.

The use of probiotics is also a useful tool to avoid antibiotic treatment, in combination with short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), to encourage healthy bacteria in the gut. “Proper use of probiotics and SCFAs can reduce the risk of the development of salmonella and E-Coli bacteria, and help to promote a healthy gut flora,” reveals Turner.

Stress is also an often-neglected factor, but one that can seriously impact the well-being of a herd, Mr Turner explains: "One of biggest periods of stress occurs at weaning... stress often leads to disruption of the gut and, more importantly, the microbiome."

While antibiotics are useful as a one-off treatment – with immediate impact on sick animals – it’s important to take a holistic approach to animal health and management.

Turner reiterated his previous statement that changing our antibiotic-use habits and altering management techniques is not something that will happen overnight, but he insists that reverting to basic management techniques will help livestock producers in their role in reducing antibiotic use in animals.

For more information on antimicrobial resistance and methods of reducing antibiotic use, visit the ABC website by clicking the ABC link below:

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Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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