PIG PRODUCERS and vets have been commended for their continued commitment to responsible antibiotic usage over the past year, despite significant swine dysentry challenges on some farms.

The latest figures collected show that antibiotic use in the UK pig industry held at 110 mg/PCU for 2019. The data represents 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK and equalled usage in 2018, having fallen 60% in the three years prior.

The use of highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) has seen a further decrease, down from 0.06 mg/PCU in 2018 to at 0.04 mg/PCU last year. The use of Colistin represents only 0.002 mg/PCU, down from 0.004 mg/PCU.

AHDB’s acting head of Animal Health and Welfare, Mandy Nevel, commented: “The latest antibiotic usage data demonstrate the sustained efforts that pig producers and their vets are making to use antibiotics responsibly, despite challenges from disease.

“The holding pattern we are seeing at the moment is almost certainly due to a spike of swine dysentery cases in 2019. Swine dysentery is a bacterial disease and, while there are a number of actions that can prevent disease spread, treatment with antibiotics is sometimes both responsible and necessary to safeguard animal health and welfare," she explained.

“It is disappointing that this may have prevented further reduction in our antibiotic use last year. However, it is right that we put animal health and welfare first and, having discussed the results with the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) and the wider industry, we can confirm that the consensus is the industry took the responsible approach and treated animals where necessary.”

PVS senior vice president, Richard Pearson, commended AHDB’s electronic medicine book (eMB) as a 'hugely important resource' that allowed the sector to review antibiotic usage at a farm and national level.

“Significant progress with antibiotic reduction has been made in the past few years and, as we achieve much lower levels of use, fluctuations in disease challenges can appear more dramatic in terms of the effect on usage," said Mr Pearson. "This is what we have seen in 2019, with significant swine dysentery challenges on some farms resulting in the need to treat pigs to protect their health and welfare.

“Our experiences during the past year highlight the importance of antibiotics and the continued drive for good stewardship. Pig vets and farmers remain committed to this, and confident that last year’s swine dysentery challenges can be overcome to achieve further progress with both healthy pigs and antibiotic reduction in the next few years.”

Chief executive officer of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, Professor Peter Borriello, added: “One of the purposes of this kind of monitoring is as a tool to understand the impact that disease challenges have on antibiotic use, and to use this information to review and, when possible, further reduce the need for use of antibiotics through targeting endemic disease control. It is pleasing to see the already low use of high priority critically important antibiotics almost halved.”