NI pork sector reports further reductions in antibiotic use

New figures show the amount of antibiotic prescribed to treat pigs on UK farms in 2020 fell by 5 per cent, bringing the total reduction since 2015 to 62 per cent.

Saturday, 12th June 2021, 9:33 am
Deirdre McIvor, Chief Executive NI Pork.
Deirdre McIvor, Chief Executive NI Pork.

According to data collected using the electronic medicine book (eMB), antibiotic use in 2020 reduced to 105 mg/PCU, compared with 110 mg/PCU in 2019 and 278 mg/PCU in 2015.

Deirdre McIvor, Chief Executive of the NI Pork & Bacon Forum, represents NI on the eMB Steering Group, and reported that the data covers 98 per cent of pigs slaughtered in NI and continues the downward trend since recording started in 2015.

Deirdre advised: “In the context of the challenges of Covid 19, achieving further reductions is a good result. We are getting closer to the target of 99 mg/PCU set by the sector. Locally we understand how important responsible antibiotic use is and that is why we collectively work towards these targets. Year on year the sector has delivered sustained reductions since recording began via eMB in 2015. This continued improvement is a credit to collaboration between producers, vets and the industry as a whole.”

Use of highest priority critically important antibiotics (HP-CIAs) remains at a very low level of 0.05mg/PCU.

HP-CIAs, as categorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), are the most important for human medical health and reductions in their use has been a focus since stewardship efforts began.

Data is submitted by producers to AHDB’s eMB database, supported by a Red Tractor requirement for quarterly submission.

Deirdre continues, “The EMA advice, is that veterinary surgeons should prescribe a lower priority alternative to HP-CIAs unless there is no other option. This could explain why, despite the overall reducing trend, we see a slight increase in use in some lower priority antibiotics such as neomycin. Alternatively, these could be short term adjustments as the industry accommodates the phasing out of therapeutic zinc oxide, which treats post-weaning diarrhoea in piglets.

“The commitment of our industry to the responsible use of antibiotics is driven by a moral duty of care not only to safeguard pig welfare but also human health where HP-CIAs are concerned. Future years will continue to pose challenges but the eMB database is a powerful tool which will allow us to monitor the impact of a range of interventions on antibiotic use and enable us to develop more sophisticated plans to control disease.”

“Whilst there is still work to be done, which the sector has already recognised in the target for a further 30 per cent reduction between 2020 and 2024, the collaborative approach demonstrates that the industry can continue to rise to the challenge.”