National Pig Association - The voice of the British pig industry

Pig World logo

Home > News > NPA welcomes big reduction in antibiotic usage in pigs

NPA welcomes big reduction in antibiotic usage in pigs

23rd Jun 2022 / By Alistair Driver

A further signifcant reduction in antibiotic use in the UK pig sector reflects the sustained efforts of producers and vets to use medicines more responsibly, according to the NPA.  

The volume of antibiotics used to treat pigs on UK farms last year fell by 17% to 87mg/PCU last year, compared with 105mg/PCU in 2020, according to data collected using eMB-Pigs, representing approximately 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK. 

AB use 21

This brings the total reduction since 2015 to 69%, representing a positive step towards meeting the second set of targets developed by the RUMA Targets Task Force, of a 30% reduction in total antibiotic use by the end of 2024, based on data from 2020.

Use of the highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIA) remains at a very low level, with a slight decrease from 0.05mg/PCU to 0.03mg/PCU recorded in 2021. No Colistin use was reported in pigs in 2021.

The only class of antibiotic in which a reduction was not recorded is the aminoglycosides. Usage increased slightly, at 8.06mg/PCU in 2021, up from 7.89mg/PCU in 2020, continuing the trend noticed in the 2020 data.


HP-CIAs, as categorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), are the most important for human medical health and reductions in their use has been a focus for all UK farm animal sectors since stewardship efforts have stepped up.

You can see a more detailed breakdown of the data HERE

NPA reaction

NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said: "The eMB figures for 2021 show the continued focus of pig producers and vets on the responsible approach to medicine use and pig health – the reductions are totally down to their sustained efforts.

"The last few years have, and continue, to be challenging for producers following labour issues, the backlog and rising input costs, but they have not let standards slip and pig health and welfare remains high, something which they should be very proud of."

"As the pig sector our commitment to the responsible use of medicines remains resolute. We set voluntary targets through the RUMA Targets Task Force in 2017 and 2020, they are ambitious and set the direction of travel with both numerical and holistic targets. We acknowledge there will be further challenges, including regulatory change, but the latest eMB figures show we’re well on the path to meet these by 2024."

Other reaction

Grace Webster, vet and chair of the Pig Health & Welfare Council Antimicrobial Use Subgroup, said: “This is another strong reduction in the use of antibiotics in the UK pig herd during what has been a very difficult year for pig producers. It reflects a positive attitude and hard work by our vets and farmers to ensure that good antibiotic stewardship is applied on our pig farms.

“There are undoubtedly challenges to be addressed as the industry continues to adapt to the loss of zinc oxide to control post-weaning diarrhoea, and this is reflected in a small increase in use of aminoglycosides, but we are reassured by a further reduction in the use of the highest priority critically important antibiotics.”

AHDB Sector Council Chair, Mike Sheldon, said: "For UK pig producers and their vets to have achieved this substantial reduction in the use of antimicrobials would have been an admirable achievement in any year. To achieve it in this last year, with all the well-known and daunting problems besetting farmers, is, frankly, incredible."

AHDB Head of Animal Health & Welfare, Dr Mandy Nevel also praised the pig industry: “The last year has been extremely challenging for the pig sector and this reduction in antibiotic use is good news. We know that stockpersonship has a big impact on disease levels and the fact that the industry has not turned to antibiotics as a fallback during this period is a reflection on the importance with which this issue is held by the sector and the high standards we have.”

Jim Morris, Senior Vice President of PVS, said: “The Pig Veterinary Society welcomes the latest figures showing a 17% year-on-year reduction in the use of antimicrobials by the UK pig sector. This reflects a lot of hard work by British pig farmers and their vets and reflects their commitment to the responsible use of antibiotics. The fall in the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics is particularly welcomed.”