Young NPA: Would you drink the same water as your pigs?

I joined a small group of Young NPA members on a day trip to the Netherlands recently to visit the MS Schippers Hy-Care concept barn, writes Georgina Crayford.

Those who came along wanted to discover a bit more about the hygiene hypothesis and take home some ideas about how to improve pig health on their units.
Although our visit was a little rushed, thanks to pesky flight delays, the key messages were conveyed clearly and succinctly.

The MS Schippers Hy-Care concept aims to help farmers achieve the ‘new barn effect’ without having to go through a depop/repop or erect new buildings. Everything they recommend centres around preventing infections – whereas many other alternatives to antibiotics, including some vaccines, focus more on reducing the impact of infections without stopping them in the first place.

The best practice highlighted by MS Schippers is not rocket science, nor is it anything particularly new. But the concept barn brilliantly presents the key features (good internal biosecurity, proper cleaning and disinfection, fly control and improved water quality) in a way that helped us all visualise how they prevent infection spread. They even had us drinking acidified water direct from the pipes going into the pig barn.

Would you be happy to drink the water that your pigs drink? If not, maybe have a think about whether that’s acceptable. After all, two-thirds of what a pig consumes each day is water, with feed only making up the remainder.

MS Schippers is working with 20 commercial farmers who are implementing the Hy-Care concept and there has been a 90% reduction in antibiotic use across these farms.

It just goes to show the solution to using fewer antibiotics needn’t be a shiny new innovation – it might just require a return to hygiene basics. I must say a big thanks to Schippers for hosting us in the Netherlands and sharing some really useful insights.

Young NPA’s annual National event is taking place on December 7 in London, and we have lined up a range of speakers for the afternoon who will stimulate debate about how the pig industry can move forward with reducing antibiotic use. I will present some of the findings from my recent Nuffield Scholarship travels to the US and Canada and we’ll also hear from vet Duncan Berkshire.

Cóilín Nunan, from the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, will share his views on the link between farming system and levels of antibiotic use.
I look forward to seeing everyone there for what should be a really interesting afternoon followed by fun and festivities!

Georgina Crayford HoLDr Georgina Crayford is a Nuffield Scholar and the NPA’s senior policy adviser, with responsibility for health and welfare policy and Young NPA

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