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Pioneer of antibiotic-free breeding

Danish farmer Stine Mikkelsen’s former professional experience as a nurse helps her when it comes to animal health in her own farming business. As a participant in the pilot project for the antibiotic- free breeding of pigs, she is one of the first of her kind in Denmark.

On the Danish Baltic island Bornholm, Stine Mikkelsen and her husband John manage their own farm, which has been family run for 400 years. In 1993, the Dane took over the farm to continue the family tradition. At the time, Stine worked as a nurse and John as a blacksmith. Today, the couple owns 500 sows. Every year, around 14.500 piglets are raised on the farm, of which 5.500 are fattened and the rest sold to two regular purchasers. The farmers have been participants of the pilot project for the breeding of pigs without the use of antibiotics since the programme started.

Read more about antibiotic usage in pigs

Mastering challenges
After starting the antibiotic-free breeding in 2014, a probation year followed in 2015. Since then, the project has been systematically integrated as a special production concept. The successful execution of an antibiotic free breeding system faces special challenges. “We are not allowed to use animal fats, blood or fish products in the feed. The complete removal of fishmeal really is a challenge, but we have found a good solution for it”, says Mikkelsen. During farrowing, stable hygiene plays a central role. The producers use potato meal and Stalosan, a disinfectant, which are both thrown into the pens.

Relevant vaccines are another key to maximum animal health. Joint inflammation is a major problem in antibiotic free breeding, as it usually needs to be treated immediately with antibiotics. “We were able to identify the responsible bacteria causing the joint inflammation, so that an effective vaccine could be developed. This significantly reduces the need for antibiotic treatment and has a positive impact on the occurrence of umbilical hernia.”

Read: More Danish pigs produced without antibiotics

Consequent disease control
„ Disease control in antibiotic-free pig breeding is another key to success (...) and hygiene in this environment is a well-known must”, says Stine Mikkelsen. The farm adheres to strict hygienic rules. For example, a complete change of clothing and hand disinfection, as well as extra pairs of boots and equipment per section are obligatory. During the treatment of piglets in the farrowing pens, protective gloves and cannulas are to be changed for every new group.

Read also: Decline in the use of antibiotic

GOOD TO KNOW

Knowledge based transition to antibiotic-free pig feed in Denmark

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 (€ 1,67 Mio.) to the project.

Sales and development

Denmark has reduced its use of antibiotics in pig feed by around 25 %, since 2009 2009.

Sales of pig meat from antibiotic-free breeding grows slowly but steadily. The most recent initiative is the sale of fresh meat in 500 Netto stores from Danish Crown’s special supply chain as of week 35.