A 360-Degree Approach Is Key to Solving the Antibiotic-Free Pig Puzzle

Consumer demand, regulation and a lack of new antibiotic molecules being commercialized all contribute to the long-term trend towards the reduction or even elimination of antibiotics in farm animals.

Meaningful change

For the pig industry, the costs involved in an ABF program can vary based on the completion rate, differences from system to system, and even from barn to barn. (Read more here on the costs of ABF swine production from Laura Greiner, Nutrition Director at Carthage Veterinary Service).

The issue of antibiotic use covers more than production costs: it also touches on human and animal health.

Antibiotic resistance a key topic

Paolo Martelli“According to the ‘One Health’ concept, human health is strictly connected to animal health and environment,” explained Prof. Paolo Martelli of the University of Parma in Italy. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the hottest topics right now, making the reduction of antibiotics and the judicious use of antimicrobials in farm animals a priority,” added Prof. Martelli.

“When it comes to overcoming antimicrobial resistance, a combined approach is needed,” noted Nataliya Roth, Development Scientist at BIOMIN. “That means keeping antibiotic use as low as possible, and finding other ways to prevent infection and promote growth,” she stated.

The growing scope of biosecurity

Mark Beghian“From a One Health perspective, biosecurity stretches far beyond its original definition of a set of good farming procedures targeted to control or mitigate the risk of disease challenge. It is now a commitment for individual pig breeders, a shared value for consumers, and –most importantly– a global priority to ensure a safe, clean environment for future generations through sustainable animal production,” commented Mark Beghian, biosecurity expert and owner of Unitec.

Improvements in biosecurity can bring additional benefits for the industry and society in general. According to Mr. Beghian, “Biosecurity enhances animal welfare. It protects public health by limiting the spread of antimicrobial resistance. It reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases in the environment. Finally, it can secure safer food on our tables.”

Vaccination and answers

Health plans and stepped up vaccination schedules can play a role in an ABF swine program. Getting vaccinations right requires answers to a number of pressing questions, according to Prof. Martelli. “How can the health level of our herds be kept as high as possible, while limiting the use of antimicrobial drugs? How can prophylaxis be applied without antibiotics? Are the animals always fully responsive to immunization? Can we improve the animal responsiveness to vaccination? What about the emerging and re-emerging diseases?” he asked.

Nutritional challenges post-weaning

Francesc Molist“The ban of in-feed antibiotics and the economic situation of the swine sector in the EU favors the study of less complex diets in the post-weaning (PW) period,” noted Francesc Molist, Research & Development Manager at Schothorst Feed Research. “Post-weaning diets should stimulate the feed intake of the piglets immediately after weaning, but at the same time, should limit the substrate that is available for the bacteria such as E. coli in the small intestine to proliferate,” he explained.

Farm management fundamentals

“In addition to biosecurity, vaccination and nutrition, enhanced farm management practices must accompany implementation of an ABF program,” stated Diego Padoan, Technical Sales Manager at BIOMIN. Water quality, mycotoxins, weaning age, prevention of enteric challenges and performance recovery all factor into the equation. (Read 5 Factors to Consider in an Antibiotic-Free Pig Program).

Continued support from BIOMIN

“The challenges of antibiotic reduction are a near universal topic that affects the swine sector globally,” remarked Luca Vandi, Technical and Regional Marketing Officer at BIOMIN, adding that “We believe that a combination of real scientific innovation and education is the best way to support the swine industry. The latter includes an expert team of technical sales managers to provide on-site advice to clients, conferences and forums, and multimedia education materials e.g. webinars and our Science & Solutions magazine,” he concluded.