As I mentioned in last month’s column, since the AHDB set up the Electronic Medicine Book in 2015, the British pig industry has done a remarkable job to reach the target of reducing antibiotics use by 50% by 2020.
Meeting the reduction targets is now compulsory for Red Tractor-assured pig producers. The target is 99mg/PCU (population-corrected unit) and the industry level for 2017 is 131mg/PCU, so we are well on the way to beating the target a couple of years early.
As a company, we have reduced our use to 6.6mg/PCU, which we are extremely proud of.
We achieved this by maintaining our high health status through having a closed herd, three-week batch farrowing and investing in new weaner/grower housing, which has allowed us to remove all in-feed medication in the crucial two-week post-weaning period.
We operate a creep-feeding protocol in the farrowing room, which ensures all piglets are eating solid food before weaning. In our new weaner buildings, the water system is sterilised using a chlorine dioxide product, followed by an organic acid that improves intestinal health and water uptake.
This is not a cheap option, but we are finding excellent results without relying on antibiotics. Until a couple of years ago, we really did not know what our antibiotics use was, but since the introduction of the eMedicine Book, we know exactly what we are using and we are striving to reduce our use whenever we can.
Antibiotics benchmarking is now available which allows you to compare your antibiotics use against holdings similar to your own.
Pig farmers always love a challenge and a target to beat. We would rather make things happen than wait for things to happen.
Whoever had the idea of the eMedicine Book deserves a good pat on the back, or maybe even an award.
It got me thinking whether there is such a thing in human health – does the NHS have a league table of surgeries and hospitals for antibiotics use? l would bet there is a world of difference between the best and worst.