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NPA welcomes latest big reduction in pig antibiotic usage

13th Jun 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has welcomed another significant fall in antibiotic usage in the pig sector, continuing the huge progress made in this area since 2015. 

The industry reduced antibiotic use by 20% in 2022 to 70mg/PCU, compared with the 2021 figure of 87mg/PCU in 2021, according to data collected by AHDB using the electronic Medicine Book (eMB), representing approximately 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK.

Antibiotic use 2022The latest drop in usage brings the total reduction since 2015 to 75% from a baseline of 278mg/PCU. It also means the UK pig industry has already surpassing its current target of a 30% reduction in total antibiotic use between 2020 and 2024 set by the RUMA Targets Task Force (TTF).

The use of highest priority critically important antibiotics remains at a very low level, falling from 0.033 mg/PCU in 2021 to just 0.013 mg/PCU in 2022. No Colistin use was reported in pigs in 2022.

HP CIA 22AHDB said the latest figures highlighted the collaborative efforts of farmers, veterinarians, and stakeholders in minimising antibiotic use while promoting the health and welfare of pigs. However, warnings have been issued over the impact on pig health and therefore the use of antibiotics over the next few years as supplies of zinc oxide are exhausted.

Collaborative efforts

NPA chairman Robert Mutimer said: “This data highlights the impressive collaborative efforts made by British pig producers and vets to reducing the use of antibiotics. Given all the well-known and difficult issues facing farmers, it is quite astounding that the goal has been exceeded.”

Grace Webster, vet, and chair of the Pig Health & Welfare Council Antimicrobial Use Subgroup said: “This year’s significant reduction in antibiotic use on the UK’s pig farms takes the sector below the TTF2 target and in part, reflects the extended use of Zinc Oxide manufactured before the withdrawal of its marketing authorisation which the VMD authorised up to the end of the Shelf Life of that product.

"This has avoided an anticipated rise in antibiotic use to treat Post Weaning Diarrhoea in 2022 but, as supplies run out in the coming months, this may still be an issue that vets and pig producers are yet to face.”

AHDB Head of Animal Health & Welfare, Dr Mandy Nevel, said: “Farmers and vets should be extremely proud of the work they have done to demonstrate a responsible approach to antibiotic use. The extensive data set collated over the last eight years has provided robust evidence of progress and has helped vets and farmers work collaboratively to make changes on farm and monitor that progress.

"The eMB was an industry initiative facilitated by the Pig Health and Welfare Council and over the last eight years, champions of the system, both farmers and vets, have led the industry on the road to responsible antibiotic use. It is wonderful to see what the industry collective can and has achieved.”

Quarterly data submissions to the eMB are in accordance with Red Tractor and QMS requirements. AHDB analyses the aggregated data and shares it with key stakeholders including the Pig Veterinary Society, NPA, Pig Health and Welfare Council, RUMA, Veterinary Medicines Directorate. This collaboration provides a comprehensive overview of antibiotic use in the sector, enabling the industry to identify opportunities for optimising individual antibiotic usage.