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Chairman's blog - We're on track with our antibiotic targets, but the most important part comes next

18th Nov 2020 / By Richard Lister

NPA chairman Richard Lister sets out his thoughts on industry progress so far in reducing antibiotic usage and the importance of the next steps.

Lister 6I am very pleased to say the second phase of RUMA antibiotic reduction targets for 2021-2024 have been announced and we can share what we’ve been working on for the last year.

Richard Pearson and I have sat on the RUMA Targets Task Force II – however, we have put these targets together as our Pig Health and Welfare Council AMU sub-group.

We’ve discussed and explored scenarios for MANY hours in order to make sure what we have put together is ambitious but also, importantly, achievable. We also consulted with members earlier this year, as did PVS, so thank you to all that put forward their thoughts and ideas – it was very helpful.

Read the RUMA Targets Task Force II report HERE

I know many producers have made changes already to ensure their approach is responsible, some of them easy, some of them more difficult and long-term.

You can see how your hard work is paying off, though, when you look at the eMB figures - the fall of 63% from 2015 is totally down to you. Following a tough year in 2019 with Swine Dysentery, the figure stayed static, and the January to June figure for 2020 announced by AHDB today shows further reductions – so we’re on track for our 2020 target!

Congratulations to everyone that has been a part of this – it is a brilliant achievement.

The most important part comes next, though, because we need to deliver the next phase of targets. When putting them together we focused on the numerical element initially, but what became apparent was that the work around the numbers is just as important, which is why we have put together some non-numerical targets for the second phase.

A key one is to help those consistently using a lot of antibiotics to review their use and, where appropriate, make responsible reductions with the help of an Antibiotic Reduction Plan.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because more will be coming soon but we do need to work with and support those that fall into this category. Training, weaning and route of medication are all included, as are the continued monitoring of AMR and pig health metrics. Fundamentally we are taking a responsible approach to put less pressure on the medicines which are so important to human and pig health.

These targets are set for 2020 to 2024. There are lots of policy changes coming during this time, which we have factored in – some, like the Veterinary Meds and Medicated Feeds legislation will see changes to the way antibiotics are prescribed, while the loss of zinc oxide in 2022 will be challenging.

Others, such as the new Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, a collaborative initiative from Government and industry, will be really helpful and support producers in making positive changes.

We all need to play our part, so please take a look at the report, discuss with your team, vet and fellow producers to reflect on your role in this next phase of targets.

We also all need to be proud of the journey our sector has travelled so far and where we’re going next – I know I am.