Effectiveness of alternative measures to reduce antimicrobial usage in pig production in four European countries
Background:The reduction of antimicrobial usage (AMU) is in the focus in modern pig production. The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of alternatives to reduce AMU at herd level. In a prospective study, 68 farrow-to-finish pig herds located in Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden were recruited on a voluntary basis to implement tailor-made intervention plans to reduce their AMU. Alternative measures included improvement of biosecurity (n = 29 herds), vaccination (n = 30), changes of feeding schemes or drinking water quality (n = 45), improved pig health and welfare care (n = 21) as well as changes in stable climate and zootechnical measures (n = 14). Herds were followed for 1 year after implementation of measures. Annual antimicrobial expenditures or treatment records, as well as disease incidence scores were collected and compared to those of the year before intervention. AMU was measured as the treatment incidence and calculated by age category, antimicrobial class and administration route. Results:Compliance with the intervention plans was high (median 93%). AMU was significantly reduced following the implementation of alternative measures: in the median herd of the four countries, pigs were treated before intervention 25% of their expected lifespan (200 days from birth to slaughter) and after intervention 16%. AMU of suckling and weaned pigs were significantly reduced by 37 and 54%, respectively. The usage of polymyxins and tetracyclines was significantly reduced by 69 and 49%, respectively. AMU via feed and water, as well as parenteral AMU were significantly reduced by 46 and 36%, respectively. Herds with a higher AMU level before intervention achieved a bigger reduction. The majority of disease incidence were similar before and after intervention, with a few exceptions of disorders related to the gastro-intestinal tract in suckling pigs (decreased) and in breeding pigs (increased). Conclusion:Following tailor-made implementation of alternative measures, a substantial reduction of AMU in pig production was achievable without jeopardizing animal health. The AMU reduction in the youngest age categories (suckling and weaned pigs) and the reduction of group treatments via feed and water was in line with the recent European Guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine.