The UK pig farming industry has reduced antibiotic usage by 28% in 2017, which equates to a 50% total reduction over the last two years.

According to data from the electronic medicine book (eMB), which has information on 87% of pigs slaughtered in the UK, antibiotics used on pig farms experienced a decline from 183 milligrams per Population Correction Unit (PCU) to 131mg/PCU in the last 12 months.

PCU is a theoretical unit of measurement that takes into the national pig population over a period of one year and compares this to an estimated weight of each species at the time of treatment with antibiotics.

The Targets Task Force, established by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), have promoted an objective to reduce antibiotic usage in the pig industry by over 60% between 2015 and 2020.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones called the reduction ‘a testament to the persistence and courage of pig producers and their veterinary surgeons in implementing sustainable reductions’.

Other bodies responded to the announcement, highlighting the hard work of pig farmers, veterinarians, and farm advisors in the industry that have worked hard to reduce antibiotics usage in the pig industry.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board senior veterinary manager Mandy Nevel said: “This is a great industry effort, with all parties fully engaged and determined to demonstrate responsible use of antibiotics in pigs. We must keep up the momentum to reduce use further in order to achieve our target of 99 mg/PCU by 2020.”

Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) president Duncan Berkshire said that while his organisation was pleased with the ‘on-going commitment to reduce the total use of antibiotics’, more can be done to reduce this amount further over the next few years, and the PVS will working with producers to achieve this goal.

Jones added: “The results also show us the importance of data. Small datasets are interesting but can be misleading. In our complex supply chains, we need to shine a light on all areas and can only do that if we can see the whole picture.

“The good news is that as more usage records are logged through the change in Red Tractor rules, so we are seeing engagement with the issue increase and reductions continuing to happen.”