11 barriers to reducing antimicrobial use
Inflexible production systems and high production costs are preventing pig producers from reducing antimicrobial use on pig farms, according to scientists.
A review of almost 50 academic papers found there are significant barriers preventing pig producers from changing their antimicrobial use.
However, there is clear awareness of the issues around antimicrobial resistance and the need to find ways to reduce their use in livestock production.
The analysis, which uses papers mainly written about production systems in Europe and the US since 2000, investigates the practices and views of people who administer antimicrobials on farms.
In addition to inflexible systems and high costs of production — which differ between countries, production types and individual farms — the review identifies nine other key areas that act as barriers to producers making changes to the amount of antimicrobials they use (see sidebar).
Other issues include pressure from veterinarians to use antimicrobials as a quick solution to a health challenge and producers failing to follow treatment guidance, either by using too many or not enough antimicrobials.
Dr. Kristen Reyher, senior lecturer in farm-animal science at the Bristol Veterinary School and a co-author of the report, said the review identifies a variety of ways that antimicrobial use can be reduced, including new methods of knowledge exchange to help improve farm biosecurity.
Increasing knowledge of how to use antimicrobials properly, as well as raising awareness of resistance and the need to reduce their use across the entire sector, could also prove highly beneficial, she added.
Barriers to reducing antimicrobials in agriculture:
- Inflexible production systems: Systems requiring feed or in-water antibiotic treatment of all youngstock at key ages, such as weaning and housing
- Low capacity for reinvestment in farming buildings: Meaningful improvements can be too costly and time-consuming for many producers
- High production costs: Low margins mean producers have little money to spend on improvements
- A “good farmer” mindset: Treating stock with double doses or longer courses in the belief it helps animals
- Welfare concerns: Producers dislike seeing unwell stock
- Failure to follow treatment guidelines: Using too many or not enough antimicrobials
- Believing antimicrobials will improve profits by dealing with disease as well as promoting growth (though this practice has been banned in the EU)
- Veterinary pressure: A feeling by farmers that veterinarians are pressing them to use antimicrobials as a quick solution
- Changing regimes: Many pig producers have switched from in-feed to in-water treatment, which could be increasing antimicrobial consumption
- Not advised: Producers treat animals without veterinary recommendation
- More is better: Belief that blanket use is needed and justifiable