New antibiotic targets for the pig sector announced

New antibiotic targets have been announced for the pig sector, which will be required to cut usage by 62% by 2020 from a 2015 base.

Figures also published today show the industry has already made significant progress towards its targets, with a 34% reduction in usage recorded in 2016.

The targets, announced at a conference staged by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance in London, will require the pig sector to cut antibiotic usage by 62% by 2020 to 99mg/PCU (Population Corrected Unit). The stepped targets include a 25% reduction for 2017.

From a baseline level of 263.5mg/PCU in 2015, the following targets have been set:

  • Year 1 reduction 35%: 2016 target 171mg/PCU
  • Year 2 reduction target 25%: 2017 target 128mg/PCU
  • Year 3 reduction target 10%: 2018 target 115.5mg/PCU
  • Year 4 reduction target 10%: 2019 target 104mg/PCU
  • Year 5 reduction target 5%: 2020 target 99mg/PCU

More details can be viewed in the full report by the Targets Task Force here

All UK livestock sectors have been set antibiotic but the pig sector, starting from the highest base, has been set the biggest challenge.

Future industry-wide antibiotic use will be monitored via eMB-Pigs, but it is yet to be decided how and by whom individual farm monitoring will be monitored. However, the report noted that the highest users ‘may have to bear a disproportionate share of the total planned reduction’.

Reducing use

Data collected by the pig industry through the eMB-Pigs database, also published today, highlight the significant steps pig producers and vets have already taken in reducing and refining their antibiotic use.

It shows overall use in pigs fell by 34% between 2015 and 2016, while use of the critically important antibiotics (CIAs) dropped by a hugely impressive 73% and make up a tiny proportion of overall use.

These positive trends were echoed in another set of data published today, the Government’s Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report (UK-VARSS 2016). It showed overall UK livestock industry antibiotic sales data fell by 21% to 45mg/PCU in 2016, exceeding the 2018 target of 50mg/PCU.

The targets for further reductions demonstrate the pig industry’s drive to continue the excellent progress made already, the National Pig Association (NPA) said.

Challenging but achievable

NPA chairman Richard Lister described the targets, announced at the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance conference in London today, as ‘challenging but achievable’.

Mr Lister, who has, himself, made great strides in reducing antibiotic treatments on his pig farms in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, played a major role in setting the new targets as a member of RUMA’s Targets Task Force, along with Mark White, president of the Pig Veterinary Society. This followed consultation among NPA and PVS members.

He said: “The figures published today show the really good progress made right across the industry in reducing and refining antibiotic use. We know that reductions will be challenging for individual farms when faced with specific disease issues – and antibiotics will continue to serve as an important tool to protect pig health. But, as an industry-wide target, it is achievable.

“Many producers across the industry, working with their vets and others, are already taking action and having ‘the courage to cut’. But there is more that can be done and, for those who haven’t yet risen to the challenge, advice and support is readily available. Every producer and vet has a part to play in helping achieve the 2020 target. Doing nothing is no longer an option.”

Mr White welcomed the progress in ‘the first year of concerted efforts to reduce antibiotic use’. “It’s encouraging to see the response in the sector to the challenge laid down, which bodes well for achieving our ambitious 2020 goal.

“It is now evident that the sector, steered mainly by the members of the Pig Veterinary Society, AHDB Pork and the National Pig Association, has the will and the capability to fully engage with the issue.”


Gwyn Jones, chair of both RUMA and the Targets Task Force, said he has been overwhelmed by the positivity of the group and its willingness to be ambitious. “The members have worked very hard and have shown incredible leadership and persistence. They have also provided unprecedented support and inspiration to each other,” he said.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We welcome these targets and totally accept the justification for them, as laid out in the O’Neill report.”

She praised the ‘superb efforts’ of those who were already making changes and said the association would continue to show leadership in bringing about change within the sector.

“It is true that, historically, the pig industry has been a relatively high user. There are many reasons for that, including the specific disease challenges the UK industry faces and a long period of poor prices for pork which prevented much needed reinvestment on farms,” Dr Davies said.

“These targets might only take us until 2020, but rest assured the industry will not stop there. However, we must also continue to ensure that the health and welfare of our pigs is the priority at all times. We need to cut responsibly.”

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford, highlighted the success in reducing the use of CIAs. “Overall, CIAs represented just 0.1% of total antibiotic use, with reductions recorded last year across all classes. Colistin is now barely used at all in UK pigs.”

There are no specific targets to curb use of CIA, although the TTF report says it is expected that usage will remain at current levels.

British Veterinary Association senior vice president Gudrun Ravetz said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a top concern for vets in the UK, with almost half listing it as the most pressing animal health and welfare issue we face.

“These evidence-based targets, developed with vital industry and veterinary input, offer significant and timely benchmarks for each livestock sector in their ongoing efforts to further reduce, refine or replace antibiotics. The targets come hot on the heels of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s report, which provide an encouraging starting-point with sales of antibiotic for use in livestock at a record low.”

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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.