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More Danish pigs to be produced without antibiotics

Denmark has earmarked DKK 12.5 million for research into how to reduce the need for antibiotics among Danish pigs. The target is for 1.5 million pigs to be produced without antibiotics by 2021.

Danish agriculture is aiming to further reduce the amount of antibiotics used in production and, moreover, to produce pigs without the use of antibiotics. Environment and Food Minister Esben Lunde Larsen states in a press release: "This project means we’re taking an important step towards being able to produce more pigs without the use of antibiotics”.

Scientific-based antibiotic-free pig production
The project is being hosted by Danish Crown, Denmark’s Technical University, Copenhagen University, Statens Serum Institut and SEGES. In addition, the Environment and Food Ministry’s Green Development and Demonstration programme has contributed DKK 12.5 million to the project. The total budget is DKK 15.5 million.

The purpose is to create a scientifically robust basis for increasing pig production without the use of antibiotics throughout the entire lifecycle of the pig (known in Denmark as OUA pigs) so that OUA production can become a profitable business. Danish Crown began its first trials with OUA pigs just two and a half years ago and in addition to increasing such production, the aim is for the experience of OUA producers to be shared among a wider circle. This is possible because the project is not merely based on political will but is primarily market-driven.

Facts about the pig production without the use of antibiotics
Pigs that are produced without antibiotics are given no antibiotics from birth to slaughter. However, should a pig become ill, it receives treatment and will subsequently be slaughtered and sold as a conventional pig, with all existing protocols regarding withdrawal times being observed.
OUA pigs must not be fed with ani
mal fat, blood or fish products. The use of relevant vaccines has proved to effective in this type of production.

 Photo: Poul Bækbo

Largescale production looks set to be viable. "Production of antibiotic-untreated pigs is possible to implement as part of existing pig production” says Poul Bækbo, Chief Consultant at SEGES. He also points out that it requires sustained and consistent focus on the animals and that there is no standard solution. In particular, all in-all out operations, which protect against infection, and specially adapted feed, are important.

Ongoing reduction of antibiotics in Danish pig meat production
Although farmers have already reduced the amount of antibiotics used in production by 25 per cent since 2009, the outlook remains promising. Christian Fink Hansen, Sector Director for Pig Production at Seges says: "We welcome the minister’s support for the project so that we can continue to reduce antibiotic consumption and share our positive experiences with the rest of the industry.”

The project will continue until 2021, when 1.5 million pigs are expected to be produced without antibiotics. There are some 200,000 pigs produced without antibiotics today.

See also:

Denmark’s antibiotics consumption remains lower than all other major producers
Alternatives to zinc and antibiotics: Trialling probiotics for the prevention of diarrhoea in pigs
The pathway to antibiotic-free pig production