Focus on reducing need for antibiotics, not zero use – Nuffield report

Government and industry must focus in future on reducing the need for antibiotics, rather aiming for zero use or simply reducing the use of antibiotics.

That was the key message from NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford as she presented the key findings from her Nuffield Scholarship on antibiotic usage in the pig sector at a conference in Glasgow.

Georgina travelled far and wide during course of her two-year scholarship, meeting pig farmers, vets, industry organisations and government representatives in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the United States, Canada, Australia and in the UK in search of best practice and initiatives aimed at reducing antibiotic use in pigs.

In her report, presented at the 2018 Nuffield Conference, Georgina calls for the Government to actively collaborate with the pig industry to develop a comprehensive national pig health improvement programme.

She also has a number of key messages for farmers, including being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to managing disease.

Key to this, with support from relevant industry organisations and advisers, including the farm vet, is conducting a comprehensive assessment of the farm’s management and hygiene practices and establishing whether any changes are necessary to deliver improved infection prevention.

Farmers should also be willing to invest in necessary changes to how their businesses operate and consider how to engage staff with these changes to ensure they implement them consistently and to a high standard. Another consideration is whether four veterinary visits per year are sufficient to deliver improved pig health farm and a greater proportion of the budget should be spent on veterinary services.

You can read the report here 

In her report summary, Georgina writes: “It became clear that in order to reduce antibiotic use, it is important to establish a foundation of good pig health. Easy access to disease-masking antibiotics and a lack of coordination and focus in the UK pig industry regarding control of endemic disease has resulted in a decline in the health status of the national pig herd.

“Therefore, my report recommends the development of a national pig health improvement scheme that makes better use of surveillance data, diagnostics and that operates with transparency at its heart. Importantly, the scheme needs to be sufficiently well-resourced to ensure it can operate long-term and across the entire industry.

“The hygiene and farm management practices that contribute to effective prevention of disease are well-established but not well-implemented on UK pig farms, probably due to challenging market conditions and underinvestment in farm infrastructure.

“Pig farmers should be encouraged to review farm practices, invest in applying those that aid disease control and endeavour to implement them consistently and to a high standard.”

Georgina’s was not the only pig-themed Nuffield presentation of the day. York-based producer Hugh Shedden presented his report investigating precision technology and how it could benefit the UK pig industry by improving profitability and sustainability.

  • Photo taken by NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.