Pig producers can reduce antibiotic usage, says St David’s vets

Pigs might not fly but they have more in common with chickens than you might think. This means that pig producers could reduce antibiotic usage using lessons learned from the poultry industry.

St David’s Poultry Team has worked for years to help poultry producers to reduce antibiotic use, and is now branching into the pig sector. “It’s easy to assume that pigs and poultry don’t have much in common, but in practice there are huge similarities,” says partner Richard Turner. “All animals are made up of 90% bacteria and only 10% their own cells, and that provides the clue to keeping healthy – nurture those ‘good’ bacteria and they will protect against the pathogenic organisms which make us ill.”

The veterinary practice launched the initiative at the British Pig & Poultry Fair this week. “Antibiotic resistance is a huge threat to human health, and livestock farmers are under increasing pressure to stop using antibiotics altogether,” says Mr Turner. “By improving the animals’ natural health through a combination of probiotics, organic acids and water sanitation, we have been able to cut poultry farmers’ antibiotic usage considerably. More than 40% of medicines we now use to treat infections are not antibiotics.”

Poultry chicks are hatched into artificially clean environments, meaning they don’t develop their bacterial microbiome for about three weeks. In contrast, piglets get a head start in life, receiving a healthy dose of bacteria from the sow and her environment. “However, the effect of weaning and a change in diet adversely affects the piglets’ gut, leading to a 25% drop in villi length. This damages the gut flora, potentially resulting in gastric ulcers and slow growth rates,” says Mr Turner. “Treatment with antibiotics is a routine prevention at this time, but this kills off many of the beneficial bacteria, resulting in a dysfunctional gut and impacting productivity.”

The answer lies in boosting and protecting the animals’ natural bacteria and health, removing the necessity for routine antibiotic use. “It’s vital that we keep the efficacy of antibiotics to treat animals and humans when they are ill,” warns Mr Turner. “Every farm is different and requires a bespoke approach, but reducing the routine use of antibiotics need not be feared.”


Editor’s Notes

St David’s Poultry Team Ltd is one of the UK’s largest poultry practices, run by a team of dedicated poultry vets and staff to offer the highest standard of poultry care throughout the industry.

Our Head Office near Exeter in Devon covers England and Wales, with further branches in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. We supply services to commercial egg laying companies, the broiler industry, broiler breeder companies, hatcheries and game bird enterprises.

The aim of our business is to provide a complete veterinary service with a “hands on” approach to meet all the requirements of today’s modern farming practices.

Our specialised team of veterinary surgeons are led by Directors Richard Turner, Alan Beynon and Richard Jackson in Exeter alongside Ben Crisp, with Margaret Hardy, Greg Koulianos and Carlos Bilello in Northern Ireland; Conor Sheehy and Rebecca McAllister in Limerick; Barry Thorp and Jan Dixon in Scotland; Suzy Ackerley in Shropshire; Kenny Nutting in Salisbury; Helen Errington in Cumbria and Catriona Gaudie in Northallerton, Yorkshire. The veterinary team are supported by our Field Service staff, Office team and Dispensary staff.