Animal medicines, pig in mud

The Red Tractor assurance scheme has bolstered controls on antibiotic use in the pig supply chain in a bid to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

New measures from the scheme will require pig producers to use an electronic medicine book (e-MB) to record the total amount of antibiotics administered to herds every three months.

Red Tractor-assured farms already record all medicines that are administered, but the e-MB has been optional until now. From November, producers must have data from the previous two quarters on the e-MB to ensure compliance with the Red Tractor scheme.

The data will enable the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture alliance (Ruma) to propose realistic reduction targets for the sector, as national usage figures currently do not exist for UK pigs.

The new measures follow the publication of the government’s O’Neill Review into antimicrobial resistance last May, which called for the surveillance of drug use on farms to be improved, and for targets to reduce antibiotic use in animals to be set from 2018.

The review warned that if action was not taken now, drug-resistant superbugs could kill 10 million people a year by 2050 - more than cancer kills today.

“Red Tractor farmers currently administer antibiotics as little as possible, but as much as is required,” said Red Tractor sector chairman for pigs, Mike Sheldon. “The e-MB will provide that data to demonstrate this point to government and its agencies.”

The National Pig Association said the move was an important step for the pig industry.

“We are proud of how the pig industry is stepping up to the challenge and taking this big leap forward to demonstrate responsible use of antibiotics and reduce and refine usage where necessary,” said CEO Zoe Davies.