Farmer Focus: We have acted on antibiotics problem

Well, I must say I feel a complete cheat writing this column sat by a pool in Italy with a cold beer by my side.

I am very privileged to be able to leave the farm in the very capable hands of the lads who work for us.

I know staffing can be a problem for many pig farmers, but whether by good luck or good management, our most recent employee has been with us for seven years and our longest-serving member for more than 35 years.

See also: Sector-specific antibiotics targets and what they mean

Pig farms use 30% less antibiotics

On the farm we have made huge progress in the past two years in reducing our antibiotics use (as has the rest of the British pig industry).

As an industry we recognised the problem and have reduced our use by more than 30% in two years.

We no longer use any antibiotics in the pigs’ feed or water. This has been made possible by many changes, but I believe the two principal changes were operating a closed herd and the Pharmaceutical Company’s development of some very successful vaccines.

I think some in the pig Industry and in human health got lazy. In the case of pigs the antibiotics would have been left in the feed as an insurance policy for pigs generally in the 7kg-12kg range .

However, it must be stressed to consumers in the strongest possible terms that all livestock are antibiotic free at the point of slaughter.

I think the public and some in the medical profession still believe if you catch a cold or flu you can treat it with drugs – the wrong drugs don’t work against viruses.

Could acids be the way forward? 

A new development on farm is to sterilise the young pig’s drinking systems and then acidify the water to encourage good bacteria to develop in the pigs’ guts to improve health and performance.

It’s a bit like taking a shot of probiotic drink each morning –  perhaps we’ll have to wait and see on this one.

While in Italy I have had my first experience of a cut-throat shave followed by a head massage- it was magnifico

Sorry, must stop writing as my beer is getting warm. Arrivederci.


Keeping antibiotics use to a minimum is a key aim for David Owers on the 700-sow indoor closed unit he manages in Lincolnshire. He sells half of the progeny as 8kg weaned pigs and rears the rest to bacon weight (105kg). The farm includes horses, cattle, 1,620ha of arable land and an AD unit.