June 4, 2020


Level of antibiotic use in UK pig industry remains unchanged in 2019


The level of antibiotic use in the UK pigs remained unchanged in 2019 despite significant disease challenges, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.


Antibiotic use in 2019 held at 110 mg/PCU, based on data collected using the electronic medicine book (eMB). The data represent 95% of pigs slaughtered in the UK and equals usage in 2018, having fallen 60% in the three years prior.


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


"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", AHDB's acting head of Animal Health & Welfare Mandy Nevel said.


"The holding pattern we are seeing at the moment is almost certainly due to a spike of swine dysentery cases in 2019", he added. Swine dysentery is a bacterial disease, and treatment with antibiotics is sometimes both responsible and necessary to safeguard animal health and welfare.


While swine dysentery may have prevented further reduction in antibiotic use last year, Richard Pearson, Pig Veterinary Society senior vice president, commented that significant progress with antibiotic reduction has been made in the past few years. "As we achieve much lower levels of use, fluctuations in disease challenges can appear more dramatic in terms of the effect on usage. 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", he said.


He expressed confidence 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".


Meanwhile, Prof. Peter Borriello, chief executive officer of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, commended the UK pig industry for its "continued ambition to reduce the need to use antibiotics and commitment to collecting and making public high-quality data on antibiotic use in pigs".


"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", he said.