Why we need to go back to basics on antibiotics

The NPA’s Georgina Crayford outlines some of her key findings from her Nuffield Scholarship on global attitudes towards antibiotic use in livestock  

Having recently returned from Australia, the final leg of my Nuffield travels, I now have the challenging task of summarising my findings in 10,000 words.

I’ve certainly got plenty to write about, from changes to regulation around antibiotic use in livestock in the United States, to ‘raised without antibiotics’ systems in Canada, ‘health by stealth’ in Australia and national disease control schemes in Scandinavia.

The hard part will be figuring out which parts are relevant for the UK pig sector and coming up with recommendations for how I think our industry should move forward in terms of using antibiotics more responsibly.

Something I have come to realise as a result of my travels is that there really is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are hundreds of alternatives to antibiotics coming onto the market, hailed as the answer to all disease woes.

While many of these may well be extremely useful in helping to manage disease with less reliance on antibiotics, what’s really needed is a return to the basics: minimising pig-to-pig contact, reducing unnecessary ‘stress’ of the pigs, proper hygiene and good nutrition.

As ever, however, the challenge will be in engaging pig producers with the subject and encouraging them to make the necessary changes on farm.

Once I’ve written my report, it will be available to read online, so do look out for it later in the year.

Meanwhile, three people from the pig sector were awarded Nuffield Scholarships in the latest round, and have started their exciting journeys.

Caroline Kealey, from JSR, will be investigating carcase grading and payment schemes to improve meat quality, Charlotte Evans will be looking to the human medical sector for inspiration around diagnostic tests to support improved health in pigs, while Angela Kirkwood will be exploring how to grow the British pig sector.

It’s wonderful to see young people from the pig industry using the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust to further develop themselves while also leading positive change for our sector. I found the whole experience hugely eye-opening and my confidence has vastly improved.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to meet some amazing people and to see how farming is done in all the countries I visited.

The closing date for applications is July 31 and I would urge anyone considering it to go for it. If you’re on the fence about it give me a call and I’d be happy to tell you more about my experience to help inform your decision.

In other news, Ed Barker and I have been making plans for an exciting calendar of Young NPA events for this year – look out for more information, coming soon!

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