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Decline in the use of antibiotics

Antibiotic consumption in finished pig production has declined by more than one third since 2009

Antibiotic consumption in Danish pig production declined by more than 25% measured in kg antibiotics from 2009 to the first half year 2018. Since 2009, however, pig production has seen major changes: more pigs are being produced and live pigs are exported (primarily to Germany and Poland). At the same time, international efforts are underway to change the calculation method from kg antibiotics used to the number of doses used.

Read: Antibiotic consumption in Denmark

Efforts to reduce antibiotic consumption for pigs in Denmark have been underway for decades, but two initiatives have recently contributed to further reductions. In 2010, the yellow card scheme was launched as a means of controlling antibiotic consumption and introduced threshold values for how many doses each pig farm could use per pig. Moreover in 2015, it was decided at a political level that antibiotic consumption for pigs in 2018 should be reduced by 15 per cent compared to consumption in 2014.

The table below shows antibiotic consumption in 2009 prior to the introduction of the yellow card, in 2014 before the new target was formulated, in 2017 and in the first half of 2018.

Number of grams of antibiotics and number of doses (measured as kg pig treated) in the production of one finished pig

Since 2009 to the first half year 2018, antibiotic consumption for producing one finished pig declined by 36 per cent as measured in grams and by 34 per cent measured in doses. Compared to the target for 2018, consumption declined by 16 per cent measured both in grams and number of doses for the first half year 2018 compared to 2014.

Read: Alternatives to zinc and antibiotics in pig production

From kg to doses
International efforts are working on changing the calculation method from kg antibiotics used to the number of doses used. A more accurate picture of consumption is obtained with the latter because although the new antibiotics weigh more, they are not used as frequently as the old ones. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council has therefore developed a model which takes account of changes in the size and composition of production. Antibiotic consumption is calculated as the consumption for producing a finished pig from birth to slaughter.

Use of antibiotics in a European perspective

Source: ESVAC, European Medicines Agency, 2017