Taking simple steps to improve biosecurity and welfare on pig farms can significantly reduce the amount of antimicrobials farmers need to administer, scientists say.
Researchers in Finland found that poor air quality and water equipment problems could lead to farmers using up to 40% more antimicrobials than farms with high levels of biosecurity.
Yet simple steps such as introducing better-quality enrichment material could lead to a drastic reduction in antimicrobial use while improving animal welfare and cutting production costs in the process.
Speaking to Pig Health Today, animal scientist Anna Stygar of Finland’s Luke Institute said the study aimed to determine if there was a link between biosecurity levels and pig health — and an indirect link to antibiotics use.
Using data collected between 2011 and 2013, the study analyzed data from vets on antibiotic consumption, biosecurity and welfare conditions across almost 2000 Finnish farms.
The researchers also examined meat inspection scores taken the slaughter house, before using the data to model microbial consumption.
“Our results found that on farms with water equipment problems, there were elevated numbers of antimicrobial treatments due to lameness,” Stygar said.
“The number of treatments could be as much as 40% higher per batch compared to farms with excellent biosecurity. That means farmers are making financial losses due to substantial medical expenses.
“Meanwhile if you look at farms which have average or poor amounts of enrichment material, in those farms we saw elevated antimicrobial treatments due to tail-biting — again about 40% more,” she added.
Most significantly, problems with air quality saw antimicrobial treatments reach as much as double those administered on farms with good biosecurity.
“The main message is that sometimes very simple methods…are very beneficial,” Stygar said. “Not only can they improve welfare, but also bring substantial financial savings by reducing medical costs.
“Of course there are additional benefits in terms of limiting antimicrobial resistance,” she added.
“We therefore hope farmers will look closely at their farm’s conditions to improve the health of the animals and maybe reduce antibiotics use in the future.”
The abstract, “Is it possible to reduce antimicrobial consumption by improving biosecurity and welfare at pig farms,” was published in the Book of Abstracts of the 69th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science. Download the abstract book here.