NPA proposes proportionate approach to new antibiotic targets

The National Pig Association (NPA) is urging the Government to adopt a proportionate approach to new long-term antibiotic targets, as the formal negotiation process gets underway.

In early June, the NPA and the Pig Veterinary Society will submit a joint pig industry proposal to the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance’s Targets Task Force. Following negotiation with Government, the final targets, expected to run from a baseline of 2015 until 2020, will be announced in October.

Following a reduction in antibiotic use in 2015, according to sales data, a significant further drop in usage is expected to be confirmed for 2016.

Commenting one year on from the publication of the NPA’s widely praised Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said targets for future reductions must take into account the health and welfare needs of the pig herd.

“We have been given the task, supported by Government, of proposing a reduction target and, as we gain a much better picture of antibiotic usage on UK pig farms through eMB-Pigs, we want to make this challenging, yet achievable.

“Our proposal will reflect this and we are confident we can agree a satisfactory outcome with Defra, as they have been supportive of our approach from the start.

“All parties recognise that drastic reductions over a short space of time could be disastrous for pig health and welfare. The pig industry is absolutely committed to using antibiotics responsibly, as shown by progress made under our stewardship scheme.

“But the changes to infrastructure and management practices on pig farms needed to achieve sustainable usage reductions will require time and investment – and support from Government and the supply chain.”

Antibiotic Stewardship Programme progress

Dr Crayford outlined some of the progress made under the stewardship programme over the past 12 months:

  • Antibiotic data covering more than two-thirds of 2015 pig production is now on the eMB-Pigs database
  • eMB-Pigs to become a requirement of the Red Tractor pork scheme this autumn
  • Sales of antibiotic products licensed for pigs-only down 24% in 2015, sales for pigs and poultry down 10 per cent, Government figures show
  • Low usage of Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs) and low resistance to these
  • Practices changing across industry, for example, some businesses stopping in-feed medication and using targeted water medication or vaccination as an alternative
  • The proportion of feed for young pigs containing a prescribed antibiotic fell from 37% at beginning of 2014 to 18% by the end of 2016, feed industry figures show
  • Major awareness campaign, with practical advice from many sources available to farmers and vets
  • Specific content on responsible antibiotic use added to City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate of Competence in the Safe and Responsible Use of Veterinary Medicines
  • Work being done to find alternatives to antibiotics, such as autogenous vaccination, bacteriophage technology and advanced genetic techniques.

You can read more about the process and context for the new antibiotic targets here  

And you can read the PVS’s Mark White’s hard-hitting comments on why attitude change is needed here

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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.