Pig sector antibiotic levels in 2019 'unchanged'

Significant progress with antibiotic reduction in the pig sector has been made in the past few years
Significant progress with antibiotic reduction in the pig sector has been made in the past few years

The latest antibiotic usage figures for the UK pig sector show that levels remain unchanged last year, despite significant disease challenges.

According to data collected using AHDB's electronic medicine book (eMB), antibiotic use in 2019 held at 110 mg/PCU.

The data represent 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK and equals usage in 2018, having fallen 60% in the three years prior.

Significantly, the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) has seen a further decrease, down from 0.06 mg/PCU in 2018 to at 0.04 mg/PCU last year.

The use of colistin represents only 0.002 mg/PCU, down from 0.004 mg/PCU.

AHDB’s acting head of animal health, Mandy Nevel, said: “The latest data demonstrate the sustained efforts that pig producers and their vets are making to use antibiotics responsibly, despite challenges from disease.

“The holding pattern we are seeing at the moment is almost certainly due to a spike of swine dysentery cases in 2019."

Swine dysentery is a bacterial disease and, while there are a number of actions that can prevent disease spread, treatment with antibiotics is sometimes both responsible and necessary to safeguard animal health and welfare.

“It is disappointing that this may have prevented further reduction in our antibiotic use last year," Ms Nevel said.

"However, it is right that we put animal health and welfare first and, having discussed the results with the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS), we can confirm that the consensus is the industry took the responsible approach and treated animals where necessary."

Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive officer of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, commended the pig industry for achieving the results.

“One of the purposes of this kind of monitoring is as a tool to understand the impact that disease challenges have on antibiotic use," he said.

"To use this information to review and, when possible, further reduce the need for use of antibiotics through targeting endemic disease control.

"It is pleasing to see the already low use of high priority critically important antibiotics almost halved.”