Pig industry’s ‘huge’ leap forward

The UK pig industry has made a huge leap forward in meeting the antibiotic challenge, the National Pig Association said, following the publication of usage figures for the sector.

Targets for further reductions demonstrate the drive to continue the excellent progress.

Data collected by the industry, through the eMB-Pigs database, highlights the significant steps pig producers and vets have taken in reducing and refining their antibiotic use.

It shows overall use in pigs fell by 34 per cent between 2015 and 2016, while use of critically important antibiotics (CIAs) dropped by an impressive 73 per cent and made up a tiny proportion of overall use.

These positive trends were echoed in another set of data published by the Government’s Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report (UK-VARSS 2016). It showed overall UK livestock industry antibiotic sales data fell by 21 per cent to 45mg/PCU in 2016, exceeding the 2018 target of 50mg/PCU.

National Pig Association (NPA) chairman Richard Lister described the targets, announced at the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance conference, as “challenging, but achievable”.

They will require the pig sector to cut antibiotic usage by 62 per cent by 2020 to 99mg/PCU (Population Corrected Unit). The stepped targets include a 25 per cent reduction for 2017.

Mr Lister, who has made great strides in reducing antibiotic treatments on his pig farms, played a major role in setting the new targets as a member of RUMA’s Targets Task Force, along with Mark White, president of the Pig Veterinary Society. This followed consultation among NPA and PVS members.

Mr Lister said: “The figures show the really good progress made right across the industry in reducing and refining antibiotic use.

“We know that reductions will be challenging for individual farms when faced with specific disease issues, and antibiotics will continue to serve as an important tool to protect pig health. But as an industry-wide target, it is achievable.

“Many producers across the industry, working with their vets and others, are already taking action and having ‘the courage to cut’.

“But there is more that can be done and, for those who haven’t yet risen to the challenge, advice and support is readily available.

“Every producer and vet has a part to play in helping achieve the 2020 target.

“Doing nothing is no longer an option.”