Active improvement of biosecurity could provide alternative to antibiotics in pig herds

One study in Germany has shown a distinct relationship between antimicrobial usage, biosecurity measures and farm performance in farrow-to-finish farms.
calendar icon 18 December 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Authors S. Raasch, M. Postma, J. Dewulf, K. D. C. Stärk and E. grosse Beilage


Antimicrobial usage in food producing animals is of major concern. A clear link between the extent of use and the development of antimicrobial resistance has already been demonstrated. To evaluate strategies that may reduce the antimicrobial usage while assuring pig health and welfare, it requires profound knowledge of factors that are associated with antimicrobial usage. Data on biosecurity and herd management practices are important parameters to identify risk factors which are related to a higher antimicrobial usage. To investigate between-farm variations of high and low usage, the treatment incidence (TI) per age group in 60 German farrow-to-finish herds was qualitatively and quantitatively analysed and linked to biosecurity measures, and herd management characteristics.


Weaned pigs received most of the treatments (median TI = 487.6), followed by suckling pigs (median TI = 138.9). Suckling pigs were treated with critically important antimicrobials (3rd and 4th generation cephalosporines) to a remarkable extent. The number of sows present at site (p < 0.01) and a low score for external biosecurity (p = 0.06) were associated with a higher antimicrobial usage in pigs from birth till slaughter. Herds with a higher treatment incidence in growing pigs (TI 200 days): i) were located in a region with a high pig density (p < 0.01), ii) had a less strict access check for visitors and personnel (p < 0.01) and iii) scored lower in the subcategory ‘cleaning and disinfection’ (internal biosecurity) (p < 0.01). Herds with a higher treatment incidence in breeding pigs weaned more piglets per sow and year and scored better in the internal biosecurity level (p = 0.02).


With the main focus on the treatment incidence in pigs from birth till slaughter and in breeding pigs risk factors for a high usage in these age groups were identified. The level of biosecurity of a herd was associated with the amount of antimicrobials used. Therefore, the findings in this study indicate possible points of action in the reduction and prudent use of antimicrobials in Germany. The active improvement of biosecurity measures could be a promising alternative to reduce antimicrobial usage on herd level.

S. Raasch, M. Postma, J. Dewulf, K. D. C. Stärk and E. grosse Beilage (2018). Association between antimicrobial usage, biosecurity measures as well as farm performance in German farrow-to-finish farms. Porcine Health Management, 4:30.

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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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