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NPA discusses antibiotics in pig sector as part of RUMA campaign

2nd May 2023 / By Alistair Driver

RUMA campaign

The NPA has highlighted the progress the pig sector has made in measuring and reducing antibiotic usage in recent years, as part of campaign by RUMA (the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture).

Lister 6Yorkshire pig producer and former NPA chairman Richard Lister discussed the progress the pig sector has made in measuring and reducing antibiotic usage when he was interviewed as part of RUMA's social media campaign focusing on the responsible use of antibiotics in the pig sector.

Over the coming weeks, in the third of RUMA’s Sector In Focus ‘digital campaigns’, it will showcase best practice case studies and stories on a dedicated part of its website and across its social media channels.

Richard, who operates three pig breeding units, remains part of the RUMA Targets Task Force (TTF), playing a key role in co-ordinating the setting of antibiotic reduction targets for the pig sector.

Reflecting on the start of the sector’s stewardship journey, he said: “ With the publication of the O’Neill report in 2016 and the messages and recommendations contained within it, the pig industry recognised it needed to review its use of antibiotics and reduce where appropriate; specifically it needed to focus on minimising the use of those antibiotics classed as Highest Priority Critically Important (HP-CIAs).

“As a food producer, the sector has a key role to play in reducing AMR, not least to maintain the efficacy of antibiotics in human health , but also in animal health."

eMB-Pigs data published by AHDB for 2021 shows that antibiotic usage for the pig sector was 87mg/PCU in 2021, 17% down on the previous year which equates to an overall reduction of 69% since 2015.

“What makes me incredibly proud is how the sector took on the challenge with such positivity and intent to make a positive change. And the headlines so far speak for themselves," he added. "The industry has voluntarily achieved a 69% reduction over a period of seven years, and has taken the use of the Highest Priority Critically Important antibiotics to negligible levels.”

You can read the full interview HERE

Veale RebeccaAn interview with NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale is also featured. She explained how data is central to making progress on resonsible use of antibiotics. 

“Data has been integral to the successes of the sector because it has provided the insight to be able to create meaningful targets for responsible reductions in antibiotic use," she said.

"At the very start the data coverage was much lower but once the requirement for recording antibiotic use in eMB-Pigs was made a Red Tractor standard, the coverage has been significant – currently 95% of pigs are RT assured."

You can read the full interview HERE

She also discussed what is being done to address Persisently High Users of antibiotics: "There will be times when it is appropriate to use more antibiotics, but for those using more antibiotics persistently it was felt we needed to support them.

“Persistently High Users are defined as the top 5% of antibiotic users in each of the main categories of production recorded by eMB-Pigs; except boar studs and gilt units, it is calculated using the last four quarters’ rolling data. PHUs are identified on eMB-Pigs when data is submitted and they are asked to complete an Antibiotic Reduction Plan (ARP) with their vet which identifies issues, actions and timescales for completion.

"The ARP was brought in as a voluntary measure by the PHWC initially but was adopted by RT as a standard in 2021.

“When we start to consider the third phase of RUMA TTF antibiotic reduction targets, we need to drill into the details to understand if we need to amend the system or plan to better support producers that are using more antibiotics.”

She said there is room for further reduction in usage, but said this is likely to be limited after the huge reductions seen so far.

"It's only natural that reductions slow down so I don’t think we’ll see any further big drops, although that is very much dependent on the resources we have available to prevent and treat disease.

"We will reach a level which is sustainable for the sector, and the eMB-Pigs data will be pivotal in helping us understand when we’re at that level. But there will be ups and downs because usage will always depend on the needs of the animals under veterinary care; if there is a disease issue then usage may increase to address this, and that is right and responsible to protect animal welfare.”

The campaign also features interviews about about antibiotics in the pig sector with representatives from Red Tractor, AHDB, the Pig Health and Welfare Group and the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.