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Home > News > Antibiotic usage stable in 2019 in face of swine dysentery challenge

Antibiotic usage stable in 2019 in face of swine dysentery challenge

1st Jun 2020 / By Alistair Driver

Despite the significant challenges thrown up by a spike in swine dysentery cases, pig industry antibiotic usage remained stable in 2019.

Average usage across the UK pig industry held at 110 mg/PCU last, having fallen by 60% in the three previous years, data from the electronic medicine book (eMB-Pigs), representing, 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK, showed.

emb figures 2019Despite, the interruption of the downward trend, the 2020 target of 99mg/PCU industry remains within reach, even if the events of last year have again shown the process is not straightforward.

Significantly, the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) has seen a further decrease, down from 0.06 mg/PCU in 2018 to at 0.04 mg/PCU last year, with colistin accounting for a negligible 0.002 mg/PCU, compared with 0.004 mg/PCU in 2018.

EMB HPCIA figs 2019

NPA chairman Richard Lister said the data demonstrated that producers, with their vets, had ‘responsibly managed the health, and welfare, of our pigs, which will always be our priority’.

“As we carry on planning the next phase of targets I know we are in a good place as a sector to continue to reduce our usage responsibly,” he said.


AHDB’s acting head of animal health & welfare, Mandy Nevel, said: “The latest antibiotic usage data demonstrate the sustained efforts that pig producers and their vets are making to use antibiotics responsibly, despite challenges from disease.

“The holding pattern we are seeing at the moment is almost certainly due to a spike of swine dysentery cases in 2019. Swine dysentery is a bacterial disease and, while there are a number of actions that can prevent disease spread, treatment with antibiotics is sometimes both responsible and necessary to safeguard animal health and welfare.

“It is disappointing that this may have prevented further reduction in our antibiotic use last year. However, it is right that we put animal health and welfare first and, having discussed the results with the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) and the wider industry, we can confirm that the consensus is the industry took the responsible approach and treated animals where necessary.”

Richard Pearson, PVS senior vice president added: “AHDB’s eMB continues to be a hugely important resource, allowing us to review antibiotic usage at a farm and national level.

“Significant progress with antibiotic reduction has been made in the past few years and, as we achieve much lower levels of use, fluctuations in disease challenges can appear more dramatic in terms of the effect on usage. This is what we have seen in 2019, with significant swine dysentery challenges on some farms resulting in the need to treat pigs to protect their health and welfare.

“Our experiences during the past year highlight the importance of antibiotics and the continued drive for good stewardship. Pig vets and farmers remain committed to this, and confident that last year’s swine dysentery challenges can be overcome to achieve further progress with both healthy pigs and antibiotic reduction in the next few years.”

Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive officer of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate commend the UK pig industry for its 'continued ambition to reduce the need to use antibiotics, and for their commitment to collecting and making public high quality data on antibiotic use in pigs'.

“One of the purposes of this kind of monitoring is as a tool to understand the impact that disease challenges have on antibiotic use, and to use this information to review and, when possible, further reduce the need for use of antibiotics through targeting endemic disease control. It is pleasing to see the already low use of high priority critically important antibiotics almost halved,” he said.