Almost two-thirds of England’s pig farms have switched to recording antibiotic use online in the first 12 months since a web-based register was launched.
The electronic medicine book, or eMB-Pigs recording system, was developed by AHDB Pork and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to replace the previous paper-based version.
Launched in April 2016, it has seen 1,500 farms or about 60% of the pig herd in England move from the old system sign up in the first year.
Welcoming the figures, AHDB officials said that eMB-Pigs was a more convenient way to record and quantify medicine usage so that producers could review and optimise their on-farm antibiotic use.
From October use of eMB-Pigs will become mandatory for Red Tractor-registered herds.Producers will be required to upload quarterly antimicrobial data and all retrospective data.
AHDB veterinary senior manager Martin Smith urged farmers on the remaining 40% of units to register as soon as possible. “I think there still remains some reluctance from producers to engage with the eMB,” he said.
“For some producers this is because they already have systems for collecting data which comply with the current Red Tractor requirements. However, we believe the opportunity exists to transfer data to the eMB system and so gain the advantages of using a national platform,” Mr Smith said.
He suggested there was also some reluctance to engage with the computer technology and a fear of the complexity of the IT systems.
“However, many producers have found that once they give it a go the system is surprisingly easy to use, he added.
AHDB Pork is providing support through its Knowledge Exchange team for those producers who may require extra assistance. There is also detailed help available through the AHDB Pork website.
Mr Smith emphasised the importance of the scheme to allow the industry to demonstrate its careful stewardship of antibiotic use and to identify ways of making further reductions.
In 2016, an independent review of antimicrobial resistance by Lord O’Neill, commissioned by the government, recommended that livestock sectors set independent reduction targets of total antimicrobial use.
This recommendation was adopted by the government and has driven the need for on-farm antimicrobial use data for 2015 to establish a baseline figure for total use in pigs.
Mr Smith added: “eMB is a dynamic system and will allow producers to benchmark their holdings against the national average for units in the same category.
“We hope to see the upward trend in antimicrobial data being uploaded onto eMB continue. Overall the response from the industry has been positive. It is hoped that the already positive stories from producers using the system to reduce and optimise their usage continues and more producers see the huge benefits to their businesses.”
The scheme has been rolled out to users in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.