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New antibiotics targets announced for UK pig sector

UK pig produers are working to meet ambitious new targets to further reduce antibiotic use in the industry.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance tasked the pig sector with cutting antibiotics use by 62% from 2015 levels by 2020.

The cuts were decided by a special Targets Task Force comprised of leading vets, farmers, and officials from the Food Standards Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

They follow significant reductions the sector has already achieved since it was challenged to reduce antibiotics use.

New focus

Mark White, a member of the task force and president of the Pig Veterinary Society, said it is encouraging to see that UK pig producers are prepared to respond so well to the challenge.

“It is evident that the sector has the will and the capability to fully engage with the issue,” he said.

The next steps for the industry are to focus on eliminating routine, preventative treatment where it is still happening, mainly due to lack of resources or expertise.

“We can also work to improve water delivery systems so that more targeted treatment in the water can be used instead of in-feed medication,” he added.

Responsible reductions

Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said the targets are welcome and will continue to build on the excellent changes many producers are already making

“It is true that, historically, the pig industry has been a relatively high user [of antibiotics],” she said.

“There are many reasons for that, including the specific disease challenges the UK industry faces and a long period of poor prices for pork which prevented much needed reinvestment on farms.

“These targets might only take us until 2020, but rest assured the industry will not stop there. However, we must also continue to ensure that the health and welfare of our pigs is the priority at all times. We need to cut responsibly.”

Record low

The new targets came as UK government figures revealed that sales of antibiotics to treat and prevent disease in farm animals have reached a record low.

Data shows an overall 27% decrease, bringing veterinary use to 45mg/kg, well below the government target of reaching 50mg/kg by 2020.

In the pig sector, the reduction is even more dramatic, with producers cutting their use by about 35% between 2015 and 2016.

Penny Middleton, NFU Scotland Animal Health and Welfare Manager, said the figures show the industry’s commitment to using antibiotics responsibly, which it has achieved without the need for legislation.

“Whilst this is a great success story there remains work to be done and each sector needs to continuously examine how they use antibiotics and ensure that they are using them in a responsible manner and identify areas where improvements can be made,” she added.


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