The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a document with a series of guidelines and advice on how to reduce the need for antibiotics and use them responsibly and efficiently. Pork producers in some countries have adopted this approach, demonstrating that it is successful and does not affect productivity.

The report, entitled “How to use antibiotics effectively and responsibly in pig production – for the sake of human and animal health,” explains that reducing the overall use of antibiotics applies to both the human health sector and livestock production. “It should also be noted that there may be a spread of resistant bacteria from livestock to humans and that farmers are regarded as being at highest risk of being infected. Therefore, the use of antibiotics in livestock production may also influence the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans,” the report reads.

Antibiotics are a revolutionary discovery for curing infections in animals and humans. However, during the last few decades, it has come out that more and more antibiotics do not work as expected: they do not cure the patient or animal of the disease or they do not kill the bacteria that cause it. This is because the particular bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing threat to human and animal health worldwide.

As a result, FAO estimates that in the coming decades there will be several million deaths annually and a significant decline in livestock production attributable to infections by resistant bacteria. In order to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics, it is essential to reduce their overall use and to restrict their use to when they are truly necessary.

In many countries, such as those in the European Union, the use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease is restricted. However, these restrictions have not lowered animal productivity. Thus, there are options for farmers to contribute to reducing the amount of antibiotics used worldwide and therefore mitigate the development of antibiotic resistance. At the same time, these options can protect the effectiveness of antibiotics in pork production.

The advice provided by FAO in this manual is the following:

  • Only use antibiotics when based on the diagnosis of a disease by a veterinarian and lab tests
  • Common practices of good animal husbandry
  • Good piglet care
  • Improve biosecurity measures
  • Treat animals individually with antibiotics
  • Follow appropriate vaccination guidelines