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Reducing antibiotic use comes with a cost - Nuffield blog

6th Feb 2017 / By Alistair Driver

Prevention is always better than cure but reducing antibiotic usage should not be seen as an opportunity to cut costs on farm, according to the NPA's Georgina Crayford.

GCIn her first Nuffield blog, Georgina, whose scholarship is looking at strategies to change farmer behaviour regarding antibiotic use on farm, highlighted one of the key themes to emerge from a recent ForFarmers/AHDB Pork conference on antibiotic usage. 

Patricia Beckers, a vet and nutritionist from ForFarmers’ Nutrition Innovation Centre in the Netherlands highlighted research from Wageningen University.

Since the implementation of a reduction strategy in 2011,  the use of antimicrobials in livestock in the Netherlands had dropped by 58 per cent to 2014.

Researchers at Wageningen found that on-farm animal health costs did not go down during this time, despite reductions in the amount they were spending on antibiotics. Instead, spending on preventative health care went up.

Georgina wrote: "The concept of 'prevention is better than cure' is not a new one, but what this research highlights is that there are costs associated with preventing infections.

"Indeed, encouraging farmers to reduce their antibiotic use by claiming that they will save money, is misleading and should be avoided. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t promote preventative healthcare  over antibiotic treatment; prevention isbetter than cure.

"We just need to make it clear that veterinary costs will likely shift from medication to vaccinations, diagnostics and improved biosecurity."

To read the full blog, click here

Zinc update 

In her February Pig World comment, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies gave an update on the worrying recommndation to ban zinc oxide from piglet feed, insisting the decision will ultimately be based on politics, rather than science. 

"The good news on the zinc oxide front is that following an appeal by the manufacturers, the committee that produced an opinion suggesting it should be banned have agreed to re-evaluate the opinion and include the much-needed data that was missing last time," she wrote.

"My gut feeling, though, is even if we buy ourselves some time for now, this decision is political, so they will find the data they need to ban it at some point.

"We need to be looking for alternatives, for sure, but we have also used this time to give the Veterinary Medicines Directorate a comprehensive briefing, and they have agreed to look at a phased out approach, should the worst come to the worst."