Brexit could create pig industry labour crisis, survey shows
The UK pig industry faces a labour crisis unless the Government takes steps to preserve access to EU workers after we leave the EU, the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned.
The NPA has today published the results of a survey of members from across the sector, which confirms that businesses are already suffering problems accessing EU labour as a result of the Brexit vote. Two-thirds of businesses employing EU labour said it had become more difficult to find EU labour since the vote, while nearly one in three have already seen workers leave.
On Friday (October 27), the association submitted its response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) call for evidence to inform the Government’s post-Brexit immigration and labour policy. The key message from the NPA was that the Government must take steps to ensure that so-called ‘low-skilled’ permanent EU workers remain accessible to the sector.
The survey, hosted on the NPA’s website, received 138 responses from producers of all sizes and systems, pork processors and members of the allied industries. Key findings included:
- Just over a half of respondents employed at least one non-UK worker, with 24% hiring more than a quarter of their labour from overseas.
- Around 90% of businesses using non-UK labour employed them on a permanent basis, with 94% of non-UK workers coming from the EU.
- 29% of businesses employing EU labour said at least one EU worker had left since the Brexit vote due to changing circumstances (eg, exchange rate and concern over immigration policy).
- 64% of those employing EU labour said it had become harder to find EU labour since the vote. None said it had got easier.
- Nearly half of those employing EU labour said EU workers they employed were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty over Brexit.
The survey also highlighted the industry’s fears for the future as the UK plans its departure from the EU.
- 63% of all respondents are less confident in their ability to source enough labour to meet their requirements than before the Brexit vote, including 40% ‘much less’ so. 1.5% are more confident.
- 46% said it would be ‘very difficult’ or ‘impossible’ to source all their labour from the UK in future. 11% said it would be ‘very easy’, while 42% said it would be ‘possible but not straightforward’.
- 17% said their businesses would not survive without migrant labour, while 28% would have to alter how they operate.
In its submission to the MAC, the NPA said EU workers have provided a welcome solution to the historic difficulty of attracting domestic labour for the UK pig sector.
The response highlights the misleading nature of the official term ‘low-skilled’ to describe many of the EU workers employed by our pig farms, meat processors and allied businesses.
“They are anything but ‘low-skilled’. Animal husbandry clearly requires a high degree of technical skill but many roles do not require graduate level training,” said NPA chief executive Zoe Davies
“The Government has made it clear it wants to restrict permanent so-called low-skilled workers after we leave the EU. The NPA is making the argument in the strongest possible terms ‘lower skilled’ workers employed in the pig sector should be included on the ‘shortage occupation’ list and prioritised after we leave the EU.
“We are already seeing the effects of Brexit on our ability to secure EU workers and our survey highlights the scale of the crisis this sector faces if we get our immigration policy wrong. Without the workers, we simply can’t produce and process the fabulous British pork enjoyed by millions of consumers. Exporting pork production is in nobody’s interest.”
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said the survey highlighted the difficulties the UK pig sector currently faces in recruiting labour from the UK, with farming often not seen as a desirable career choice.
Four in very five respondents said farming was not being offered as an attractive proposition by UK educational establishments, while more than half said colleges were not providing employees with the necessary skills.
Mr Barker added: “The talent and enthusiasm is out there. It is critical that, as we leave the EU, the agricultural industry works with Government and the educational sector to champion agriculture as a great place to work and to provide the right training and skills to meet the sector’s needs.”
Notes to editors
1) The online survey was accessed via the NPA website in late September and early October. Just over 90% of respondents were producers, with the rest from the processing and allied industries. Of all respondents, 62% employed fewer than 10 workers, while 12% employed more than 50.
2) The survey invited comments from respondents, a selection of which can be viewed here:
“They (EU workers) are uncertain as to whether they will be able to remain here after Brexit. All want to remain here.”
“UK labour are increasingly unwilling to work with pigs. Even on the arable side of our business future staffing is the biggest risk to our business.”
“We have always struggled to find good quality labour locally but have had no problem sourcing abroad.”
3) The NPA carried out a survey into EU labour last year. The results can be viewed here
4) Home Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to seek views from across the UK economy to inform its post-Brexit immigration and labour policy. The NPA submitted its five-page response on October 27.
For further information please contact:
Ed Barker, NPA senior policy adviser Mobile: 07741 263194
NPA welcomes reduction in pig industry Colistin usage
The NPA has welcomed new figures suggesting a significant drop in usage by the pig sector of Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort used to treat a number of bacterial infections in both humans and animals.
The latest available UK sales data from 2015 shows Colistin sales into veterinary medicines were already low at around one tenth of the EU recommended limit.
But preliminary analysis by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance of data received via the new pig e-Medicines Book (e-MB) suggests that use of Colistin in pigs decreased by more than 70% last year.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said the figures were yet another indication of how the pig sector was rising to the challenge of reducing and refining antibiotic usage.
She said: "This data shows exactly how seriously farmers and their vets have taken this issue, and proves this is an industry that does what it says it will!"
Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) president Mark White said: "Veterinary surgeons work-ing with their clients voluntarily restricted Colistin's use last year and this is a perfect example of how vets can and do prescribe responsibly. The key point is the need to conserve use for when it really is necessary."
RUMA chair Gwyn Jones said the findings meant that once 2016 sales data are re-leased, the UK could be one of the five lowest users of Colistin in Europe.
He said: “We were looking for significant reductions in 2016 following the best prac-tice guidelines issued by the Pig Veterinary Society at the end of 2015, but this has exceeded our hopes.”
Mandy Nevel, AHDB Pork's veterinary team manager, said: “It’s very positive to see the pig sector – vets and farmers together – responding to the responsibility of hav-ing continued access to this drug as a last resort and reducing use where possible.”
Proportionate antibiotic targets
The NPA has this week submitted a joint proposal with the PVS to the RUMA Tar-gets Task Force for a proportionate long-term target to reduce overall antibiotic us-age within the pig sector.
Dr Davies stressed that, one year on from the publication of the NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, the pig industry has made great strides in reducing and refining antibiotic usage.
Official Government figures showed sales of antibiotic products licensed for pigs-only were down 24% in 2015, with sales for pigs and poultry down 10 per cent. Further significant falls are expected to be recorded for 2016 and 2017.
Figures supplied by the feed industry showed the proportion of feed for young pigs containing a prescribed antibiotic fell from 37% at the beginning of 2014 to 18% by the end of 2016, with two-thirds of the reduction taking place last year.
Dr Davies added: “Concerted efforts are being made to improve education and offer practical advice on responsible use of antibiotics across the industry. And a great deal of work is being done to find alternatives to antibiotics, such as through autoge-nous vaccination, bacteriophage technology and advanced genetic techniques.”
The eMB-Pigs database, developed and launched by AHDB Pork last year, has now collected the 2015 and 2016 antibiotic records of more than two-thirds of the national herd.
More data will be made public later this year when the sector-specific targets are an-nounced at RUMA’s conference in association with the Veterinary Medicines Direc-torate on October 27.
Notes to editors
1) The NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship programme, launched in May 2016, has six strands of activity:
- Capture and collate antibiotic use data recorded on pig farms
- Benchmark each farm's antibiotic use against other farms of a similar type
- Extend education in effective disease control strategies
- Reduce antibiotic use, consistent with responsible human and food-animal medicine Promote veterinary prescribing principles to strictly limit the use of antibiotics of critical importance to human health
- Appoint Stewardship Commissars who will continually review industry's use of antimicrobials and champion initiatives.
2) The most recent UK-VARSS (Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveil-lance) showed sales of antibiotics licensed for both pigs and poultry were down 23 tonnes to 212 tonnes in 2015, a 10% drop. Sales of products licensed for pigs only were down 24%, a 16 tonne reduction to 50 tonnes, the biggest fall across all the sectors.
Huge leap forward by pig industry in meeting the antibiotic challenge
The UK pig industry has made a huge leap forward in meeting the antibiotic challenge, the National Pig Association (NPA) said, following the publication of usage figures for the sector.
Targets for further reductions also announced today demonstrate the pig industry’s drive to continue the excellent progress.
Data collected by the pig industry through the eMB-Pigs database, published today, highlight the significant steps pig producers and vets have already taken in reducing and refining their antibiotic use.
It shows overall use in pigs fell by 34% between 2015 and 2016, while use of the critically important antibiotics (CIAs) dropped by a hugely impressive 73% and make up a tiny proportion of overall use.
These positive trends were echoed in another set of data published today, 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% to 45mg/PCU in 2016, exceeding the 2018 target of 50mg/PCU.
NPA chairman Richard Lister described the targets, announced at the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance conference in London today, as ‘challenging but achievable’.
They will require the pig sector to cut antibiotic usage by 62% by 2020 to 99mg/PCU (Population Corrected Unit). The stepped targets include a 25% reduction for 2017.
Mr Lister who has, himself, made great strides in reducing antibiotic treatments on his pig farms in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, 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 published today 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.”
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We welcome these targets and totally accept the justification for them, as laid out in the O’Neill report.”
She praised the ‘superb efforts’ of those who were already making changes and said the association would continue to show leadership in bringing about change within the sector.
“It is true that, historically, the pig industry has been a relatively high user. There are many reasons for that, including the specific disease challenges the UK industry faces and a long period of poor prices for pork which prevented much needed reinvestment on farms,” Dr Davies said.
“These targets might only take us until 2020, but rest assured the industry will not stop there. However, we must also continue to ensure that the health and welfare of our pigs is the priority at all times. We need to cut responsibly.”
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford, who put together the association’s widely praised Antibiotic Stewardship Programme last year, said the publication of the eMB figures is ‘really impressive’ on its own.
“Very few other countries publish national on-farm antibiotic usage for the pig sector, so this is a real step up in transparency,” she said.
Dr Crayford also highlighted the success in reducing the use of the classes of antibiotics that are most important for human medicine. “Overall, CIAs represented just 0.1% of total antibiotic use, with reductions recorded last year across all classes. Colistin is now barely used at all in UK pigs.”
She stressed that, while producers are up for the challenge, a partnership approach would be required. “If we are going to meet these targets, support will be needed from Government for investment in infrastructure and pig health improvement programmes and we will also need a proportionate and responsible approach from the supply chain.”
NPA election manifesto calls for 'Fair Deal for British Pig Industry'
The National Pig Association (NPA) is using its General Election manifesto to call for a fair and balanced deal for British pig farmers from the next Government.
The association, which represents about 80% of British pig production, has identified five priority areas for the main political parties, ahead of the June 8 poll. These are:
Post-Brexit trade: Trade arrangements that recognise our world-leading standards and enable the UK pig industry to thrive in the global marketplace. We must not agree to deals that open us up to unfair competition and we must fight for equivalent standards.
Labour: A balanced immigration policy that ensures we retain access to EU labour. We need a secure workforce and staff that are welcome to live in the UK.
Support: A domestic agricultural policy that supports our high standards and helps us to invest in modern production facilities that deliver good animal health and welfare.
Regulation: A fair regulatory system that ensures our needs as a valuable sector producing an iconic, high quality product are fairly balanced alongside other interests.
Pig health and welfare: The same resource and effort must be put into keeping animal disease out as extending export markets, as ultimately the two are intrinsically linked.
When it comes to post-Brexit trade, the NPA is highlighting the importance to the pig sector of maintaining tariff free access to the Single Market but also of ensuring that, if EU tariffs are imposed, that EU imports coming the other way are subject to equivalent tariffs.
The association has also issued a warning about the potential implications for animal health and welfare of new free trade deals outside the EU. It recently published details of research it has carried out comparing animal welfare standards across key pig producing countries.
For example, while sow stalls have been outlawed in the UK since 1999 and are now partially banned across the rest of the EU, they are still legal in the US, Canada and Brazil. These three countries also have very different attitudes when it comes to antibiotic use, while the feed additive, Ractopamine, banned in the EU, is still approved in all three.
The UK is also unique among major pig producing countries, including its EU competitors, in its variety of production methods, including outdoor breeding and indoor straw-based systems.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “The British pig industry has absolutely no intention of lowering our welfare standards as a result of any post-Brexit trade deals.
“Our manifesto is all about delivering a fair and balanced deal for our members and that includes ensuring British pig producers are not undercut by imports of pork from countries produced to lower welfare standards. We must insist on equivalent standards for imports and, if necessary, designate pork as a ‘sensitive product during free trade negotiations.
“We are also sending out a clear message to the next Government about the need to maintain easy access to EU labour, particularly permanent, so-called ‘un-skilled’ labour that our farms and the allied industries are so dependent on.”
Other NPA election manifesto priorities include:
- Grant funding under a new domestic agricultural policy or tax support to help investment in modern production facilities that deliver good animal health and welfare and allow farmers to reduce antibiotic use
- Champion the exceptional standards of Assured British pig farmers by ensuring Government departments always procure pork products to equivalent UK standards
- Legislation and regulation must be evidence- and outcome-based
- Better border controls and stricter penalties for those caught illegally importing meat.
The NPA’s manifesto is being sent to members for them to pass on to candidates, along with a poster that gives candidates an opportunity to show, via a ‘selfie’, their support for a ‘Fair Deal for the British Pig Industry’.
NPA chairman Richard Lister said: “We are now urging our members to help drive these messages home to prospective candidates, whether that is on the doorstep, out and about in their constituencies or via arranged meetings.
“If we all work together, we can really make a difference. We are not asking for special favours – all we want is a fair deal.”
Notes to editors
- You can view the full NPA 2017 General Election Manifesto here and the poster for candidates here
- You can read the article on the NPA’s Animal Welfare Matrix comparing standards across the key pig producing countries here
- The UK pig industry is worth £1.2 billion at the farm-gate and, considering retail, foodservice and exports, over £7.5 billion in total. Our export market is worth £400 million a year
- The NPA is the ‘voice of the British pig industry’, representing the interests of pig producers and the allied industries. Our membership covers around 80% of the UK sow herd.
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956 Email:
NPA responds to Prue Leith comments on feeding Bake Off waste to pigs
The NPA has issued a polite reminder to Prue Leith and all pig keepers on the dangers of feeding food waste to pigs.
The host of the popular Channel 4 show has revealed she gavethe leftover cakes and bread from the show go to a neighbour to feed to their pigs. This continued until a vet intervened as the pigs were getting too fat, she said, according the Telegraph, adding: “One of the cameramen has pigs and his vet hasn't said no."
In a press release, which can be viewed here, the NPA said itunderstands the temptation for people to feed waste food to be pigs. However, we stressed that for very good reasons, it is illegal to feed catering waste (even if it doesn’t contain meat), kitchen scraps, meat or meat products to farmed animals.
The 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak was officially linked to the feeding of swill containing infected meat to pigs on a farm in Northumberland. Before that an outbreak of Classical Swine Fever (CSF) in 2000 was thought to have originated when a pig kept outdoors ate a discarded ham sandwich.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is currently causing devastation in a number of Eastern European countries, recently leaping west to reach the Czech Republic and Romania for the first time. Affecting commercial farms, backyard farms and wild boar, some recent outbreaks, notably in the Czech Republic, have been linked to human spread via infected meat.
The European Commission has warned that the spread of ASF poses a ‘serious risk to the European pigmeat market’, while in the UK, the Animal Plant and Health Agency’s (APHA) pig division has singled out ASF as its biggest exotic disease concern. APHA recently has raised the ASF risk threat from ‘very low’ to ‘low’.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We appreciate that Prue Leith’s actions and her reported comments were made with the best intentions.
“But we simply cannot stress enough the risk posed to the pig industry by the feeding of waste food to pigs. The reality is that this is the most likely route for devastating diseases like ASF to get into our domestic pig population. An outbreak of ASF, or other diseases circulating around the world like FMD or CSF, would be catastrophic for the pig industry and the wider farming community.
“Most commercial farmers understand this, but as Prue Leith’s comments highlight, the message still isn’t getting through to members of the public, including those who keep small numbers of livestock and apparently their vets..
“Our message is a simple – do not feed catering waste to your pigs!”
The APHA, in partnership with the pig industry, has been running a social media and PR campaign this year to raise awareness of the disease risks inherent in feeding catering waste to farmed animals. It is currently looking to step up the campaign to focus on the risk of introducing ASF into the national pig herd in light of its spread in Eastern Europe.
Dr Davies added: “We fully support this campaign and will continue to try and ram the message home to all pig keepers and the wider public.”
NPA vows to fight to protect post-Brexit UK welfare standards
The National Pig Association (NPA) has insisted the UK’s high animal welfare standards must not be lowered in pursuit of new trade deals and a post-Brexit cheap food agenda.
As Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, the NPA is calling for steps to protect pig producers and consumers, including equivalent standards for meat imports and, if necessary, tariffs and quotas where standards fall short.
The association also wants to see strict labelling laws put in place to provide clarity for consumers over differences in production standards.
The NPA’s top three Brexit priorities for the pig sector are:
- Retaining free access to the Single Market
- Ensuring the UK pig industry is not undermined by lower standard imports
- Retaining access to permanent EU labour – skilled and ‘unskilled’.
The UK pig industry exported more than 206,000 tonnes of pigmeat, worth £252 mil-lion, in 2017, nearly 60% of which went to or via the EU.
NPA chairman Richard Lister said: “A free trade deal with the EU is absolutely vital for the pig sector. Tariffs on pork exports, for example, of 45p/kg on carcases or 131p/kg for processed hams, would cripple our export trade, slash profitability and export production overseas, particularly if equivalent tariffs were not levied on im-ports into the UK.
“If we leave without a trade deal, sensible transitional arrangements must be put in place.”
An even greater concern for the NPA is the prospect of new trade deals that would expose UK consumers and producers to cheaper pork imports from the likes of the US, Canada and Brazil, where health and welfare standards are often considerably lower than ours.
Mr Lister added: “The recent Brazilian meat scandal has highlighted the inherent dangers in any potential new trade deals.
“We don’t want imported meat produced to lower hygiene, welfare and traceability standards posing a threat to consumers and undercutting UK producers. We don’t want pork from the US, for example, from pigs reared using the growth promoter rac-topamine or from sows reared in stall systems outlawed in the UK since the late-1990s.”
The NPA has welcomed comments by the Prime Minister and Defra Ministers con-firming they have no intention of allowing UK standards to be compromised in future trade deals. However, Farming Minister George Eustice has acknowledged that WTO rules, as they stand, make it difficult to include welfare standards as a condi-tion of trade.
Mr Lister, who farms in Yorkshire, said: “We are proud of our high animal welfare standards in the UK. We want future trade deals to specify equivalent standards when it comes to meat imports. If that is not possible, pork must be granted protect-ed status, with tariffs and quotas imposed on lower standard imports.
“We will also insist on an extension of country of origin labelling laws to clearly speci-fy when meat has been produced to lower standards.”
The NPA’s other major concern is the availability of EU labour after we leave the EU.
Mr Lister said: “Any talk of trade deals will be rendered almost irrelevant if we lose access to the EU labour force. There would simply not be a British pig industry as we know it today.
“A survey of our members has highlighted the extent to which we rely on permanent, skilled and unskilled EU labour (by ‘unskilled’ we mean not educated to degree lev-el), rather than short-term seasonal workers.”
Mr Lister concluded: “Brexit will provide opportunities and threats in equal measures and we will continue to bang the drum for the best possible deal for the pig sector.”
Notes to editors
1) The EU has imposed a partial ban on products from the 21 processing plants under investigation in Brazil, following a scandal over meat hygiene stand-ards. Click here to read more
2) An NPA survey on the pig industry’s reliance on EU labour showed:
- 58% of businesses across the supply chain employed at least one migrant worker
- Nearly 20% employed between 11 and 50
- More than 90% of migrant workers were employed on a full-time basis
- 20% said their businesses would not survive without migrant labour.
3) Other NPA Brexit priorities include:
- Ensuring protection from exotic disease is maintained
- Grants for building and infrastructure improvements that promote animal health and welfare standards under a new domestic agricultural policy
- Ensuring the pig sector is fully involved in any moves to drive up health and welfare standards under a new farm policy.
For more information, contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956 Email: email@example.com
NPA welcomes Real Welfare report for pigs
The National Pig Association has welcomed the findings of a ground-breaking report on objective animal welfare data covering nearly 5.5 million pigs over three years.
AHDB’s pioneering Real Welfare report is the culmination of a unique partnership between farmers and vets, developed in response to the pig industry’s desire for science-based evidence of welfare standards within the sector.
The voluntary initiative’s findings, based on on-farm assessments covering 5,463,348 pigs over three years, representing 40.5% of all pigs present on farms on the day of assessment, have been described as ‘hugely positive’ by NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.
The project looked beyond production systems, focusing on objective science-based indicators of the welfare of the animals, themselves, rather than on the environment the pigs are kept in.
Key findings from the biggest study of its type anywhere in the world included:
- Only 0.07% of pigs were identified as needing to be moved to a hospital pen for special treatment and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs required hospitalisation
- Just 0.18% of non-hospitalised pigs were lame and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs were lame
- Only 0.14% of pigs had severe tail damage and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs had severe tail damage
- 70% of pigs had their tails docked, lower than in most other European countries where tail docking is permitted
- 62% of pigs had access to substrate, most of which was straw, and 32% of pigs had access to objects.
Over the years Real Welfare has been in operation, all measures of physical injuries, except tail damage, which was already low, have decreased, demonstrating an improvement to the welfare of individual animals in the British pig herd.
The report concluded: “The outcomes provide evidence of high levels of welfare and stockmanship in the British industry. They confirm that farmers look after their animals well and deal with pigs that need extra attention to safeguard their well-being.”
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said the report had highlighted areas of real strength in on-farm husbandry standards and also identified areas for improvement.
She said: “This is a truly ground-breaking report, which is the result of the pig industry’s desire to obtain a real picture of the welfare of pigs of our farms.
“Overall, the results are very impressive and confirm what we already know about the pride that British pig producers take in ensuring their animals are properly looked after.
“The assessment highlighted very low levels of tail-damage, and while the proportion of pigs that have had their tails docked at 70%, might appear high, it is far lower than other major pig producing countries, where the level often nears 100%. Despite this positive figure, however, the industry is committed to continuing to drive further reductions in the number of pigs that have docked tails.
“This farmer led initiative demonstrates to consumers exactly how high the welfare on our farms actually is and stems from a desire to be open and transparent with the public over how their food is produced, despite increasingly damaging and fake messaging from anti-meat eating organisations.”
Notes to editors
- To read the report, click here
- The Real Welfare scheme involves on-farm assessments of finisher pig welfare, using a set of five objective and repeatable measures, known as ‘welfare outcomes’. Carried out by vets on a regular and systematic basis, these are animal-based, rather than measured from their environment.
- The five measures are:
- Tail damage
- Body marks
- Environmental enrichment
- Pigs that should be in hospital pens.
Real Welfare is also used to collect information on other variables, such as feeding practice, pen variables and whether tails are docked or undocked.
For more information on the report itself contact AHDB
Phone: 0247 6478910 Email:
For pig industry reaction to the report contact Zoe Davies
Mobile: 07814 448956 Email:
City & Guilds promotes importance of responsible antibiotic usage
The importance of using antibiotics responsibly on farms is being championed by City & Guilds, a leading body in skills development.
City & Guilds has updated its Safe Use of Veterinary Medicines Certificate of Competence to reflect the growing awareness around the UK livestock sector of the need to respond to the antibiotic challenge.
This qualification, which is open to anybody who works with agricultural livestock, helps ensure best practice is always followed while recognising the suitability of individuals to safely and effectively provide basic treatments.
Following lengthy discussions with National Pig Association (NPA) vice chairman Richard Longthorp, City & Guilds has added new elements to the qualification.
With an overarching emphasis on replacing, reducing, refining antibiotic usage to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and the human population, they cover:
- How antimicrobial resistance arises and spreads, and how to avoid it
- Avoiding routine use of antibiotics and ensuring they are not normally the first option
- Recognising the importance of diagnostics, biosecurity and good management in controlling disease
- Recognising when antibiotics are likely to be ineffective, for example against viruses and when resistance is present
- Why ‘critically important antibiotics’ should be used only as a last resort.
- City & Guilds is now republishing its handbook to reflect the additional requirements and has informed its assessment centres of the changes.
Mr. Longthorp, a Yorkshire farmer and strong advocate of developing effective training to deliver better outcomes on farms, welcomed the move.
He said: “We are delighted the guidance has been updated. This means all people who work with livestock now have training and certification available to them that recognises the significant and growing challenge of using antibiotics responsibly.
“The pig sector is already making great strides in rising to the challenge and this is yet another tool in the armoury to demonstrate our professional approach to safe and responsible use of veterinary medicines.”
Long-term targets for reducing and refining antibiotic usage are in the process of being developed for the UK livestock sectors, under the leadership of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance.
In further positive news for the pig sector, uptake for the eMB-Pigs database, which records antibiotic usage on farms, has increased significantly during the early part of 2017.
The latest figures from AHDB Pork show data covering 36 per cent of UK production is now on the system, almost double the figure recorded before Christmas.
Red Tractor Assurance has confirmed that recording antibiotic usage data on eMB-Pigs on a quarterly basis will become a requirement of the Red Tractor pork scheme later this year.
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “Our Antibiotic Stewardship Programme sets out a holistic approach to addressing the antibiotic problem that puts education and recording of data to the fore, alongside practical means to reduce usage on farms.
“These latest developments highlight the excellent progress being made across the pig supply chain.”
Notes to editors
1) City & Guilds is a global leader in skills development, providing services to training providers, employers, and trainees across a variety of sectors
2) The Safe Use of Veterinary Medicines Certificate of Competence is an inde-pendently assessed City & Guilds/NTPC Level 2 Award covering all elements of administering veterinary medicine, including storage, transportation, dis-posal and record-keeping. For more information, click here
3) The NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, launched in May 2016, in-cludes measures on capture and collation of accurate antibiotic use data; benchmarking farms’ antibiotic usage; education in effective disease control strategies; reducing antibiotic use, consistent with responsible animal medi-cine and promoting prescribing principles to strictly limit use of ‘critically im-portant antibiotics’. For more information click here
4) The latest official Government figures showed sales of antibiotics licensed for pigs and poultry were down 10 per cent in 2015 while sales of products licensed for pigs only were down 24 per cent.
5) For more on last week’s Red Tractor announcement, click here
For further information please contact:
Dr Georgina Crayford, NPA senior policy adviser Mobile: 07551 155654
Brexit negotiations must not ignore fundamental importance of EU labour - NPA
The fundamental importance of EU labour to sectors like pig production must not be forgotten as the Government forges ahead with its Brexit plans, the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned.
Prime Minister Theresa May has today outlined her priorities for the Brexit negotiations, including controlling the numbers of people coming to the UK from Europe.
She signalled the UK will leave the Single Market and full membership of the EU Customs Union, while seeking to retain ‘frictionless trade’ with the EU via a Free Trade Agreement and forging new trading relationships elsewhere.
The NPA has responded to the speech by outlining its top three Brexit priorities. These are:
- Retaining sufficient access to EU labour
- Retaining tariff-free access for exports to the EU market
- Ensuring pork imports are produced to equivalent standards
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said, while the nature of future trade arrangements will have a huge impact on the viability of UK pig sector, currently the industry’s biggest concern is access to labour.
“Without EU labour there will be no British pig industry as we know it,” she said.
“We understand why immigration is going go to be a priority for Mrs May but, along with many other sectors, we fear this could result in serious unintended consequences if politics triumphs over economic reality.
“We are heavily reliant on EU labour on our farms, in our processing plants and across the wider industry, to produce British pigmeat, which is so highly valued in our home and export markets. We must do everything we can to retain that access.”
Dr Davies welcomed the extra clarity around Single Market access and Mrs May’s comments on a suitable transition period for new Brexit arrangements.
“It is now absolutely vital for our sector that we secure tariff-free access to the EU market, and also some sort of transitional arrangement whilst trade negotiations are conducted. Our pig producers must be protected,” she said.
“It is equally essential that any new trade arrangements, for example, with the US, do not result in the UK being flooded with cheaper pigmeat produced to lower standards than permitted in the UK. Equivalence of standards is an NPA priority.”
A recent NPA survey showed 58 per cent of businesses across the pig supply chain employed at least one migrant worker, while nearly half would not survive or would be forced to make changes to how they operated without migrant labour.
In a recent interview, the chief executive of Cranswick, one of the UK’s biggest pork processors, said between 35-65 per cent of his staff were foreign workers, predominantly from Europe. He predicted the UK food and drinks sector would ‘grind to a halt without overseas workers’.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said the fall in the value of the pound, effectively cutting UK wages relative to those on offer in other member states, was already having an impact on the availability of staff for the pig industry.
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom suggested at the recent Oxford Farming Conference that the Government would consider introducing seasonal migrant worker schemes for the agricultural sector.
But Mrs Wilson said the pig sector needed stronger guarantees. She said: “We are making the case in the strongest possible terms to Government that, any immigration policies put in place, must not jeopardise our access to permanent workers, both skilled and unskilled, who want to live and work in the UK.
“And it is not just the policies we put in place. This is also about the rhetoric around Brexit and the messages we send out to EU workers.
“On behalf of the UK pig sector, we continue to welcome them with open arms.”
Notes to editors
- The results of the NPA migrant labour survey can be seen here
- Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch’s interview with the Telegraph can be seen here
- Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s comments at the Oxford Farming Conference can be seen here
- NPA chairman Richard Lister has joined forces with the poultry sector to warn Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill the nation’s ability to produce food will be undermined by a lack of access to EU labour. You can see the full story here
- The NPA has secured a meeting with Brexit Minister David Jones in Downing Street on February 8.
For further information, please contact:
Lizzie Wilson, NPA policy services officer
Mobile: 07790 117091 Email:
NPA welcomes report showing significant decline in sales of antibiotics for pigs
The National Pig Association (NPA) has welcomed encouraging new data confirming a significant reduction in sales of antibiotics for use on pig farms.
The Government has today published the latest UK-VARSS report revealing antibiotic sales data for 2015, showing the livestock sector is well on course to reach its overall target set for 2018.
The headline figure is an overall 9 per cent reduction, to 404 tonnes, in sales of antibiotics sold for use in animals, including companion animals, compared with 2014. This represents a four-year low.
The figures show the pig sector played a major part in bringing about that overall reduction. Sales of products licensed for both pigs and poultry were down 23 tonnes to 212 tonnes, a 10 per cent drop.
Sales of products licensed for pigs only were down an even more impressive 24 per cent, a 16 tonne reduction to 50 tonnes, the biggest fall across all the sectors. Overall sales for antibiotic use in food-producing animals dropped 10 per cent from 62 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) to 56mg/kg.
This continues a ten-year downward trend and puts the UK on track to reach its 50mg/kg target by 2018. Sector specific targets are due to be agreed next year.
The VARSS report also showed a drop in sales of the highest priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans. Sales of these made up just over 1 per cent of all antibiotics sold for use in animals in 2015.
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “We are encouraged by these figures, which show the pig sector is pulling its weight and is taking the challenge of reducing and refining antibiotic usage seriously.
“We fully expect to see further reductions in 2016 and are committed to meeting the challenge of new targets that come our way. We will continue to press for these to be workable and proportionate.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to push forward the key principles of our Antibiotic Stewardship Programme to drive further change.”
The report contained more good news for the pig industry. It highlighted the work the pig industry is doing to collect on-farm usage data via the electronic eMB-Pigs database.
NPA senior policy advisor Dr Georgina Crayford reiterated the need for any farmers who have not yet done so to upload their data.
“Sales data can only tell us so much. Entering data onto eMB-Pigs is necessary to give us a more detailed understanding of the volume of antibiotics used on farm and how they are used. This, in turn, will help us agree reasonable reduction targets next year.”
The VARSS report also showed the results of research on resistance in E. coli isolated from pigs in 2015. The NPA has some concern about the findings of ESBL-producing E.coli.
But Dr Crayford added: “We are comforted by the fact that ESBL genes found in E.coli from animals have in the past been different to the genes found in ESBL E.coli in human clinical cases, highlighting that the transfer of resistance from animals to humans is not a major concern (see notes to editors).”
“We are equally encouraged to see little to no resistance to 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, critically important classes of antibiotics for human health, in Salmonella isolated from pigs.”
Dr Crayford said the VARSS report highlighted progress being made in reducing antibiotic use on pig farms but also contained pointers for the future.
“When it comes to setting further targets for the pig sector it is important to note that, while we’re committed to using antibiotics responsibly, reductions in antibiotic use will not necessarily result in a reduction in bacterial resistance.
The key is to ensure that further development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) does not happen. “We must also ensure that, as we take further steps to reduce antibiotic usage, we do not compromise the health and welfare of our livestock.”
Notes to editors
1) UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report is published annually by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. You can view the 2015 report here https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-foodruralaffairs
2) See the NPA’s press release, published at the start of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (Nov 14-20) on progress being made in implementing its Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.
3) This paper, published in September 2014, shows ESBL genes found in E.coli from animals have in the past been different to the genes found in ESBL E.coli in human clinical cases.
For further information please contact:
Dr Georgina Crayford, NPA senior policy adviser Mobile: 07551 155654