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AHDB Pork Blog

Technology helping to reduce antibiotic usage by Mandy Nevel

undefinedWith antibiotics, it’s all about responsible use – not just reducing use. Antibiotics are a vital tool for vets to enable them to treat and safeguard the welfare of animals committed to their care. In the UK, all vets admitted to the RCVS register must swear an oath:

"I promise and solemnly declare that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, the profession and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and that, ABOVE ALL, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care."

Antibiotics, in today’s world, are still necessary to achieve this. Will they be necessary in 100 years? Or will we have better technologies that offer better solutions to our problems? On a recent tour of farms and technology companies in the UK and the Netherlands, I was amazed to see some of the investment that has been made in new technologies to help reduce antibiotic use. We witnessed probiotics for day-old chicks, sophisticated air systems for pig housing, not to mention the research both in nutrition and alternatives to antibiotics. I was really quite staggered by the commitment shown by the companies involved. This was both in research and at farm level; there was also a real buzz with the progress that has been made. I finished the tour with real optimism that, in the UK, we have some truly great farms, and there are real opportunities to improve the health and welfare of our animals.

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work” (Peter Drucker). The UK pig sector targets for antibiotic use were announced on 27 October at the RUMA conference and will only be achieved with hard work and determination as there is no quick fix. The reductions that have already been seen in the pig industry are a great start, but there is more we need to do. The targets are ambitious and plans to reduce use should also be ambitious. However, plans should always be discussed and agreed with your vet, then put in place to ensure the welfare of your pigs is not compromised. The phrase ‘as little as possible but as much as necessary’ is apt and will demand hard work from individual units and the industry as a whole to achieve this balance.

Within research and academia, we need to seek alternative ways of controlling disease. Earlier detection of disease or preventative methods are needed and it’s up to all of us to keep looking for solutions.

If you want to share your experiences of trying to refine or reduce antibiotics on your unit, I’d like to hear from you; what worked well for you and what didn’t? By sharing our experiences, we can help others within the industry identify a clear path to responsible use of antibiotics, while recognising it might not be an easy one.


By AHDBPork at 29 Nov 2017, 14:52 PM


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