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Pig industry stepping up to the antibiotic challenge

14th Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The UK pig industry is stepping up to the antibiotic challenge on a number of fronts, the NPA has revealed, as the spotlight falls once again on the issue.

piglet2Today marks the start of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which aims to increase awareness of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and encourage best practice globally to help the tackle the problem.

While this has inevitably sparked renewed calls for restrictions in how antibiotics are used, the NPA is highlighting the 'excellent progress' the UK pig sector is already making to implement its Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.

The association has issued a press release, which can be viewed here

Published in May, the stewardship programme sets out a framework for reducing and refining antibiotic usage in the pig sector.

Progress towards implementing key strands, such as recording antibiotic usage, education across the supply chain and responsible use of medication on farms, includes:

  • Data for 535 pig units covering nearly 6 million pigs has been entered into the industry database for antibiotic use
  • Entering data onto AHDB Pork’s eMB-Pigs is likely to be made compulsory next year under the Red Tractor Pork assurance scheme, covering over 90 per cent of pig production
  • Practices are changing on farms. For example, one of the UK’s biggest pig producing companies is in the process of stopping the administration of antibiotics through feed
  • Awareness of the issue is rising rapidly across the pig industry. The topic has been discussed at numerous events over the past year, including, recently, at a ForFarmers conference in London, the NPA’s regional producer meetings and various events organised by veterinary companies for producers
  • The Pig Veterinary Society’s autumn meeting in Edinburgh included a dedicated session on antimicrobial use and resistance, at which the Chief Veterinary Officer spoke.
  • PVS will also be sharing best practice in antibiotic use at the London Vet Show this week.
  • NPA is looking at strengthening the training requirements for pig farm staff responsible for administering antibiotics. For example, they may be expected to undertake a Certificate of Competence in responsible use of antibiotics in the future.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are all aware of the challenges that lie ahead but I am pleased to say we are making very good progress in implementing the NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship Programme.

“We are proving, as we said after the O’Neill report was published in September, that we are up for the challenge. This is just the start, however. As an industry we are fully aware there is much more work to be done.”

Upload data

NPA senior policy advisor Dr Georgina Crayford said the immediate priority for the pig sector was to upload antibiotic usage data onto eMB-Pigs. The numbers on the database are set to rise further as more of the UK’s large pig producing companies upload their data.

Georgina said: “It is absolutely vital that we are able to present accurate figures on current usage by early 2017 to ensure we can agree fair and proportionate usage reduction targets.”

She also stressed the need for a balanced debate on antibiotic usage on farms and AMR.

She added: “Of course everyone understands the need to reduce and refine antibiotic usage and the livestock sector has been working hard to achieve this. But we also need to be clear about what constitutes responsible usage on farms.

“And, in line with the One Health agenda, we must ensure the health and welfare of livestock are not compromised by the setting of unrealistic targets.”

Praise from deputy CVO

The NPA's stewardship programme has already received widespread praise, including from Defra Minister Lord Gardiner, Defra’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Simon Hall and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Mr Hall praised the NPA’s ‘responsible, proactive attitude’ approach to the antibiotic challenge.

All UK livestock sectors will face new targets for reducing and refining antibiotic usage from 2018, following the recommendations of the O’Neill report, published in September. For more information, click here

  • Follow the NPA's Twitter feed during Antibiotic Awareness Week for regular insight and information on the use of antibiotics in pig farming.