Antibiotics are an important tool for addressing infectious diseases on pig farms; however, some research indicates that their overuse may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance and the WHO has stated that this problem should be addressed.
The ban on antibiotics as growth promoters was implemented by the European Union in 2006 and was important in reducing their use.
Ten years later, prophylactic antibiotics are still used at high levels in many countries to maintain animal health and welfare. To promote a more responsible use, antibiotics should be evaluated regularly, only allowed if strictly necessary and alternative solutions should always be available. Such measures would help to reduce the selection pressure that contributes to the spread of resistance.
The pig industry uses more medication (mg of active ingredient / unit of stock correction) than other livestock sectors, especially during the weaning period when pigs face several challenges and stressors including changes in diet, sow separation and re-mixing.
Parenteral administration of antibiotics would still be allowed to ensure a more limited and targeted approach.
A previous investigation evaluated the effects of removing prophylactic antibiotics on the performance and health of pigs from weaning to slaughter.
It was concluded that the withdrawal of prophylactic antibiotics in feed, did not resulted in major problems detrimental to performance. Untreated pigs were as efficient as pigs fed antibiotic diets, although there were numerical reductions in production performance and a trend towards higher mortality in the final stage.
These results indicate that elimination of antibiotics from feed is possible, although parenteral use is still allowed, some additional measures will need to be taken to implement and avoid loss of earnings and deterioration in pig welfare.
For more details on the article:
Removing prophylactic antibiotics from pig feed: how does it affect their performance and health?
Alessia Diana, Laura A. Boyle, Finola C. Leonard, Ciaran Carroll, Eugene Sheehan, Declan Murphy & Edgar G. Manzanilla. BMC Veterinary Research volume 15, Article number: 67 (2019)
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