How the Antibiotic Growth Promoter Ban Affected the Swine Industry in Korea

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In Korea, antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) have been banned from use in feed since July 2011. Many trials have been conducted to evaluate the impact of the AGP ban on livestock production. Overall, the data shows no difference between AGP and AGP-free feed in terms of production performance (Table 1). For instance, live born piglet numbers per litter and market sold piglets per sow per year (MSY) show similar performance before and after the ban. In some areas, performance indices such as production index of sows and pre-weaning mortality have improved since the AGP ban.

Table 1. Performance of swine production before and after the AGP ban (Kim et al., 2015)

Live born piglets per litter10.610.60%
Pre-weaning mortality (%)9.79.5-2.1%
Post-weaning mortality (%)1516.3+8.7%
Production index2.262.29+1.3%
Market sold piglets per sow per year (MSY)18.518.6+0.5%

These results are easily explained. First, piglet production of sows is not affected by the AGP ban. Improvements in artificial insemination and sow management, as well as genetic advances are increasing sow productivity. Second, AGPs could not deliver direct effects on the pre-weaning mortality of piglets (Che et al., 2012). The AGPs could improve body weight gain and feed efficiency but not mortality at weaning (Stahly et al., 1980). Finally, since MSY is directly related to post-weaning mortality due to infectious diseases, levels are similar after the AGP ban to those recorded when AGPs were still permitted. Consequently, the AGP ban in feed did not bring about a big negative impact on swine productivity. However, we have learnt a lesson to improve MSY by making efforts to decrease post-weaning mortality in order to maximize productivity.

How did Korea implement the AGP ban in feed?

Since 2005, the Korean government has led a project to reduce antibiotic usage in animal production in order to prevent antibiotic resistance problems, and to improve food safety. The government collected figures on antibiotic usage and sales volumes (Table 2) as well as monitoring antibiotic resistance. Eventually, a plan for antibiotic reduction was decided, and the AGP ban in feed was a top priority to deliver maximum impact in the industry. A gradual decrease of antibiotics in feed to minimize any negative impact was started in 2005. There were 25 different antibiotics available for use in feed as AGPs in 2005. In 2009 this was decreased to 19 before the complete ban on antibiotic use for growth promotion was implemented in July 2011.

Table 2. Annual sales volumes (MT) of antibiotics by usage. Source: Animal and plant quarantine agency, 2012. 

UsageAnnual sales volume (MT) of antibiotics
Feed additive766680682627447236223101

Up until 2004, the annual amount of AGPs in feed was approximately 48% of total antibiotic usage. Since then it has decreased to only 11% in 2011. Total antibiotic usage in swine production has decreased from nearly 60% to 48% after the AGP ban. The main trend of antibiotic usage has shifted from AGP in feed to treatment and prevention after the AGP ban due to new regulation of veterinary prescriptions. The government has led regulation changes and an expert group is raising awareness of the importance of biosecurity, management, disease prevention and control, and environmental conditions which all help maximize production without the use of antibiotics in the feed.

When it comes to biosecurity, the Korean swine industry learned a lot from the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak. Biosecurity has been improved across the country and is now working effectively. The other main change is in the mindset of the farmers for decision-making. For instance, farmers are choosing vaccines for efficacy and not for brand or promotional activities. The farmers are also economically evaluating antibiotic usage for efficacy. Additionally, farmers are looking for alternatives to prevent and control diseases; alternatives such as probiotics, phytogenics, and acidifiers are evaluated at their production sites. The farmers are not experiencing big changes to their production outcomes since the AGP ban.

What are main lessons the rest of the world can learn from Korea?

The whole swine industry in Korea was worried about decreased productivity as well as increased disease prevalence as a result of the AGP ban. There were many objections and arguments continued for over 10 years until AGPs were completely banned in 2011. Since the ban, everyone has realized that nothing has changed. Farmers are now implementing better biosecurity, management, facilities, genetics, and alternatives since AGP ban. The efficacy of AGPs was very limited in terms of growth promotion or feed efficiency. We have since learned that many other factors have a big effect on pig production, including but not limited to nutrition and management.

If you’re interested in making the move to ABF pig feeding, also read 5 Factors to Consider in an Antibiotic-Free Pig Program.


Kim, et al., 2015. Opens external link in new windowInvestigation on changes in pig farm productivity after ban of antibiotics growth promoter in commercial mixed feed, CNU Journal of agriculture science, Vol. 42, No. 3, Sep 2015.

Che, T.M. et al., 2012. Opens external link in new windowEffect of rice and other cereal grains on growth performance, pig removal, and antibiotic treatment of weaned pigs under commercial conditions. Journal of animal science, 90:4916-4924, 2012.

Stahly, et al., 1980. Effect of feed intake and antibiotic on reproduction in gilts. Journal of animal science. 51:1347-1351, 1980.