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Decline in antibiotic consumption

Since 2016, Denmark has used less than 33 per cent medicine in livestock production compared to the average EU consumption. Antibiotic consumption in agriculture fell by 3 per cent last year compared to 2016. This is the fourth consecutive year for consumption to fall, with Danish pig production showing a significant decline.

Around 3 per cent (3.4 tonnes) fewer antibiotics were consumed by Danish livestock in 2017 compared to the previous year, measured in kg/antibiotics. In fact, antibiotic consumption in pig production has declined by no less than 28 per cent since 2009.

Overall, consumption fell by around 14% from 2013 to 2017, which corresponds to over 16 tonnes. The figures are shown in the annual DANMAP survey.

DANMAP is a collaboration between three different institutions: Statens Serum Institut, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark and the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. The programme handles the monitoring of the use of medicine in Danish livestock production.

Source: DANMAP 2017

Click here to read the survey

Fewer antibiotics in pig production
As pig production accounts for 85 per cent of meat production in Denmark, the trend is, in large part, driven by the decline in antibiotic consumption by Danish pigs. In 2017, pigs received 4 per cent fewer antibiotics measured in doses, adjusted for the number of pigs produced per year compared to the previous year.

In a European perspective, Denmark was shown to use less than one third (40,8 mg/kg biomass) of EU consumption (124,6 mg/kg PCU) in the most recent European statistics from 2016 of medicine consumption by livestock. However, it has proved possible for Denmark to reduce consumption further.

See also: Welfare standards in Danish pig production

Impact of Yellow Card scheme

“The introduction of the Yellow Card scheme in 2010 was a significant initiative in terms of reducing consumption. Danish farmers have also become better at using antibiotics correctly and are now more aware of the importance of reducing consumption,” says Veterinarian Jan Dahl, Chief Advisor at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.

The Yellow Card scheme is an arrangement under the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, which determines the limits for antibiotic consumption. Should farmers exceed these limits, they receive a Yellow Card.

Critically important antibiotics such as cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones have either been reduced or phased out. Broadly speaking, Colistin, an antibiotic that is important in the fight against super-resistant bacteria, has not been used since the first quarter of 2017.

”It is encouraging that consumption continues to decline,” says Birgitte Borck Høg, Special Advisor at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. “If antibiotics, which are the last resort in the treatment of humans, are to remain effective in human medicine, it is vitally important that the veterinarian only prescribes them after all other treatment options have been exhausted.”