UK pig sector cuts antibiotics 5% in 2020

Antibiotics use on UK pig farms fell by 5% last year, taking it to within a hair’s breadth of the industry’s ambitious target.

Total antibiotics use fell from 110mg/population-corrected unit (PCU) to 105mg/PCU, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit challenging staffing levels and bringing market chaos.

Now the average UK finished pig is just 6mg above the industry’s 99mg/PCU target for 2020.

This represents a 62% reduction on the 2015 baseline figures used by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (Ruma) alliance and recorded through the Electronic Medicine Book (eMB-Pigs).

Yorkshire farmer and Ruma representative Richard Lister said the achievement was testament to the hard work of pig producers and their vets.

Slight rise on CIAs

Highest-priority critically important antimicrobials (HP-CIAs) remain at a “low level”, but saw a slight increase from 0.04mg/PCU to 0.05mg/PCU.

Importantly, the eMB-Pigs – which accounts for more than 95% of slaughtered UK pigs – reported no use of colistin, an antibiotic of last resort.

Senior vets pointed to the phasing out of therapeutic levels of zinc oxide as a particular challenge, while the increase of neomycin might have been because, in some specific cases, it remained the best option.

New target

Peter Borriello of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate noted that a further reduction of 30% (see “Ruma pig industry action plan until 2024”) had been targeted by 2024.

But Prof Borriello added: “The 5% reduction in antibiotics use in pig farms between 2019 and 2020, alongside no colistin being used in 2020, is encouraging, and testament to the hard work of the veterinary and farming bodies in improving antibiotics stewardship.”

Ruma pig industry action plan until 2024


Signs of progress

Pig targets

Persistently high users (PHUs)

Introduce a programme in 2021 supporting PHUs to reduce use

Pig health metrics

Monitor effects of reduced antibiotics use annually

Weaner management plan

Identify/launch best-practice weaner management before 2022

eMB data

Maintain/increase on-time submissions of data to eMB annually

Medicines training uptake

Review gaps and increase opportunities for uptake from 2020

Pig indicators of progress

Antibiotics use (eMB)

Cut total use by 2024 by 30% from a 2020 baseline

Highest-priority antibiotics use

Equal to or lower than 2019 baseline

Antimicrobial resistance surveillance

Monitor current data; aim for reduction on 2020 baselines

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