UK pig industry halves antibiotic usage in two years

Industry leaders have welcomed latest figures which show the pig industry reduced antibiotic usage in the UK by 28 per cent in 2017, bringing the total reduction in two years to more than 50 percent
calendar icon 16 May 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

According to the latest data taken from the electronic medicine book (eMB), which represents 87 per cent of pigs slaughtered in the UK, antibiotic usage on pig farms dropped from 183 mg/PCU to 131 mg/PCU within 12 months.

The 2017 reduction means the pig industry has more than halved its antibiotic usage within the last two years – with the latest figure building on a 34 per cent cut in usage between 2015 and 2016.

The news has been welcomed by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) which has worked closely with the National Pig Association (NPA); the British Pig Association (BPA); Pig Veterinary Society (PVS); meat levy bodies, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS); Northern Ireland Pork and Bacon Forum (NIPBF) and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), as well as the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) to help cut the use of antibiotics.

It comes just seven months after targets were announced by the Targets Task Force, set up by RUMA, to reduce antibiotic usage in the pig industry by over 60 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

AHDB’s Senior Veterinary Manager Mandy Nevel said: “This is a great industry effort with all parties fully engaged and determined to demonstrate responsible use of antibiotics in pigs. We must keep up the momentum to reduce use further in order to achieve our target of 99 mg/PCU by 2020.”

Developed by AHDB Pork and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the electronic medicine book is available to all UK producers and is supported by the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh levy bodies.

It provides an electronic version of the paper medicines book to record and quantify usage so producers can review and optimise their on-farm antibiotic use. Since October last year, it became a Red Tractor requirement that quarterly antibiotic data are entered into eMB.

Prof Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said: “Congratulations to the pig sector on these impressive reductions in antibiotic use in 2017, which build on those already seen in 2016.

“These achievements are the result of high level collaboration across the industry to deliver on a challenging and rigorous on-going plan to reduce and refine antibiotic use, while maintaining the health and welfare of pigs.”

Christine Middlemiss, the UK CVO, said: “The reduction in antibiotic usage achieved by the UK pig industry over the last two years are excellent. This has been achieved by the sector working together and following a clear agreed plan of action, which is focused on responsible reductions alongside the prevention and management of disease.

“This approach is essential for the sustainability of British agriculture and will help to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics in the future.”

President of the Pig Veterinary Society Duncan Berkshire said: “PVS is pleased to see the recent results from the ongoing commitment to reduce the total use of antibiotics within the pig sector and would like to congratulate our members and pig producers on a reduction of over 50 per cent in the last two years.

“These first steps have shown good progress towards the targets that have been set and we look forward to working with producers and the allied industries over the coming years.”

NPA’s Senior Adviser Georgina Crayford said: “This figure demonstrates the continued hard work and commitment displayed by pig farmers, aided by veterinarians and other farm advisers, to use antibiotics more responsibly.

“We knew it would be challenging to meet the agreed reduction targets, but the pig sector is rising to that challenge and making progress every day. Nonetheless, the pig industry’s efforts will not stop here. There is further work to be done to reduce antibiotic use, such as improved collaboration between farmers to tackle endemic disease.”

Gwyn Jones, chairman of RUMA, added: “This is great news for the pig industry and a testament to the persistence and courage of pig producers and their veterinary surgeons in implementing sustainable reductions. Sector organisations should also be recognised for the tremendous leadership and support they have shown over the past three years.

“These latest results prove that the targets the pig sector set itself are both challenging and proportionate. Each year will be progressively harder to achieve and for this reason our foot must stay firmly on the pedal.

“The results also show us the importance of data. Small datasets are interesting but can be misleading. In our complex supply chains, we need to shine a light on all areas and can only do that if we can see the whole picture.

“The good news is that as more usage records are logged through the change in Red Tractor rules, so we are seeing engagement with the issue increase and reductions continuing to happen.”

As reported by AHDB

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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