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Antibiotic targets - what next?

3rd Apr 2020 / By Alistair Driver

In the latest issue of Pig World, NPA chairman Richard Lister and Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) president Richard Pearson discuss the next set of antibiotic targets for the pig sector. 

Antibiotic useThey are representing the pig sector on the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance's Target Task Force II (TTF II), which has begun working on the targets beyond 2020. 

With the sector on track to meet its 2020 target of reducing usage to 99mg/PCU, Mr Lister said the progress so far was 'down to the dedication and hard work of vets and farmers'.

“We have had to change what we do and how we approach antibiotic usage, but I am pleased with what we have managed to accomplish. No other country has taken this voluntary approach and achieved so much," he said.

“But there is more to do. These targets run to 2020, so while we should be proud of ourselves, we are now in the midst of exploring the next phase of targets, which will fall in line with the UK five-year action plan for antimicrobial resistance, which runs from 2019 to 2024."

TTFII is exploring new numerical targets, but is also keen to investigate other aspects of activity which could be included. It is not just about numbers, but about how antibiotics are used and the general health of the pig herd, he added.

High users

Lots of producers have reduced annual usage to very low levels, in some cases single figures. But this suggests, with a 2018 average of 110mg/PCU, there are still some consistently high users out there.

One of the key issues the group therefore hopes to address is how to change the behaviour of those producers with habitual high usage of antibiotics.

“While the majority of producers take a responsible approach there are some that don’t – we need to support and encourage these people in making changes to address the challenges they face,” said Mr Pearson.

“We know it’s not always simple and there are other factors, such as infrastructure and complex health challenges, that can underlie high usage. We haven’t been looking at this in a one-dimensional format – it’s definitely multifactorial.

“We recognise that every farm is different and the last thing anybody wants to do is destabilise pig health in order to meet arbitrary targets.”

You can read the article in the April issue of Pig World and online here

Keeping antibiotic use to a minimum

Stephen and Karen ThompsonThe latest issue of Pig World also includes a feature on Stephen and Karen Thompson, winners of the 2019 National Pig Awards Special Achievement of the Year, who have managed to keep antibiotic use to a minimum by adopting a holistic approach to pig production.

The Thompsons run a 220-sow indoor pig herd, near Sheffield, which, among other outlets, supplies their high quality wholesale butchery, Moss Valley Fine Meats.

The article outlines how the business's approach across all areas - including biosecurity, vaccination, nutrition and the pigs' environment - is geared towards maximising pig health, particularly gut health, and thereby minimising antibiotic usage. 

“We have always aimed to avoid overuse of antibiotics by keeping our herd healthy in the first place,” said Stephen.

“Healthy, productive animals also mean a healthier purse. When we do use antibiotics, it’s vital to use them properly and complete the course so that they work fully and minimise the risk of resistance developing. No in-feed or in-water antibiotics have been used for 15 years; we have managed any challenges with oral and injectable treatments and management interventions.”

The farm’s antibiotic usage averaged just 1.3mg/kg in 2019.

You can read the full feature here