UK pig industry reduces antibiotic use by 75% with a concerted eight-year effort

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

The UK pig industry has achieved a remarkable milestone by surpassing the 30% reduction target in total antibiotic use set by the RUMA Targets Task Force (TTF) between 2020 and 2024.

This achievement represents an impressive eight-year reduction of 75%, highlighting the collaborative efforts of farmers, veterinarians and stakeholders in the pig industry. It emphasises their commitment to significantly reducing the use of antibiotics.

The latest figures reveal a 20% reduction in antibiotic usage for treating pigs on farms in 2022. This brings the total reduction since 2015 to 75%, highlighting the industry's dedication to promoting the health and welfare of pigs while minimising antibiotic use.

Data collected by AHDB using the electronic Medicine Book (eMB), representing approximately 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK, show that antibiotic use in 2022 stood at 70mg/PCU, a significant improvement compared with 87mg/PCU in 2021

Quarterly data submissions to the eMB are in accordance with Red Tractor and QMS requirements.

Total antibiotic usage in pigs recorded in eMB

We analyse the aggregated data and share it with key stakeholders including the Pig Veterinary Society, National Pig Association, Pig Health and Welfare Council, RUMA and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). This collaboration provides a comprehensive overview of antibiotic use in the sector, enabling the industry to identify opportunities for optimising individual antibiotic usage.

Grace Webster, vet and chair of the Pig Health & Welfare Council antimicrobial use subgroup, said:

“This year’s significant reduction in antibiotic use on the UK’s pig farms takes the sector below the TTF2 target and, in part, reflects the extended use of zinc oxide manufactured before the withdrawal of its marketing authorisation, which the VMD authorised up to the end of the shelf life of that product. This has avoided an anticipated rise in antibiotic use to treat post-weaning diarrhoea in 2022, but as supplies run out in the coming months, this may still be an issue that vets and pig producers are yet to face.”

AHDB Pork Sector Council member and National Pig Association Chair Robert Mutimer added:

“This data highlights the impressive collaborative efforts made by British pig producers and vets to reduce the use of antibiotics. Given all the well-known and difficult issues facing farmers, it is quite astounding that the goal has been exceeded.”

AHDB Head of Animal Health & Welfare Dr Mandy Nevel said:

“Farmers and vets should be extremely proud of the work they have done to demonstrate a responsible approach to antibiotic use. The extensive data set collated over the last eight years has provided robust evidence of progress and has helped vets and farmers work collaboratively to make changes on farm and monitor that progress.

"The eMB was an industry initiative facilitated by the Pig Health and Welfare Council, and over the last eight years, champions of the system, both farmers and vets, have led the industry on the road to responsible antibiotic use. It is wonderful to see what the industry collective can and has achieved.”

Download the antibiotic usage data in pigs from the electronic Medicine Book (eMB): 2022

Find out more about the electronic medicine book for pigs (eMB-Pigs)

Find out more about the RUMA Targets Task Force

Image of staff member Mandy Nevel

Mandy Nevel

Head of Animal Health and Welfare

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