One year after its launch, data representing around 60% of the pig herd in England has been uploaded onto the eMB-Pigs database.
In total, 329 farmers have recorded their antibiotic usage from 1,500 sites on the eMB website, which was developed by AHDB Pork and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and, supported by the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh levy bodies, is available to all UK producers.
The website provides an electronic version of the existing paper medicines book and is, according to AHDB Pork, a convenient way to record and quantify usage so producers can review and optimise their on-farm antibiotic use.
The data for 2015 is particularly important as it will be used to estimate a usage figure that new usage targets due to be agreed over the summer will be based on.
AHDB veterinary senior manager Martin Smith welcomed the latest figures and said he was confident farmers would continue to make full use of the website and enjoy the many benefits it brings to the industry. But he said there was still a reluctance among some within the industry to use it.
Mr Smith said: “There are many benefits for pork producers as eMB allows them to review their antimicrobial use data in a number of different ways. Producers are able to compare data between quarters or for producers with multiple sites, they are able to compare between holdings.
“The data also identify antimicrobials by different classes including highlighting those considered to be critical to human medicine.
“By reviewing antimicrobial use data, producers may be able to identify particular external effects such as seasonal variability that may be affecting the health of their herds. All of this information allows producers to review their units alongside their veterinary surgeon and seek routes to reduce usage.
“eMB is a dynamic system and will allow producers to benchmark their holdings against the national average for units in the same category.”
From November it will be a Red Tractor requirement that quarterly antimicrobial data is entered into eMB-Pigs. Producers will also be required to upload retrospective data.
“I think there still remains some reluctance from producers to engage with the eMB,” Mr Smith added. “For some producers this is because they already have systems for collecting data which comply with the current Red Tractor requirements. However, we believe the opportunity exists to transfer these data to the eMB and so gain the advantages of using a national system.
“There is also some reluctance to engage with the computer technology and there is some fear of the complexity of the IT systems. However many producers have found that once they give it a go the system is surprisingly easy to use.”
But Mr Smith said the overall the response from the industry has been positive and that he hoped the positive stories from producers who have used it would encourage more producers to ‘see the huge benefits to their businesses’.
AHDB Pork is providing support through the Knowledge Exchange team for those producers who may require extra assistance. There is also detailed help available through the AHDB Pork website.