Target for antibiotic consumption

Danish pig producers are firmly focused on minimising antibiotic consumption. This also applies to piglet producers. However, the main priority at the moment is to reduce the use of medicinal zinc ahead of the ban that takes effect no later than 2022.

Veterinarian Nicolai Rosager Weber says that in 2014, the use of medicinal zinc reached a peak, with total consumption at almost 440 tonnes. Since then (with the exception of 2017) consumption has been declining. In 2019, total medicinal zinc consumption totalled almost 380 tonnes. This corresponds to a decline of 11 per cent when the number of piglets produced is taken into account. "We have succeeded in reducing zinc consumption without this leading to an increase in antibiotic consumption among piglets,” said Weber.

Danish Agriculture & Food Council’s Veterinary Epidemiologist, Jan Dahl, who works with antibiotic consumption, resistance and animal diseases on a daily basis, says that in Denmark, preventive treatment with antibiotics is prohibited. In 2019, 2.8 grams of antibiotics were used to produce one finished pig. This is a fall of 33 per cent since 2009.

Thanks to the Danish antibiotic monitoring system, VetStat, it is possible to measure medicine consumption by individual animal species. Most European countries are unable to do this because only a few countries have similar systems.

Antibiotics are not just antibiotics. A distinction needs to be made between critical types of antibiotics and other antibiotics.

Read also: Timeline antibiotic usage in Denmark

WHO and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have singled out a number of antibiotics which should not, or only to a very limited extent, be used in livestock production. There are certain types of antibiotics that are very important in the treatment of humans, and where it has been proved that the use of these types of antibiotics in livestock means that it will become more difficult to treat sick people.

Denmark phased out the use of the important antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, and third and fourth generation cephalosporins many years ago. Colistin was phased out two years ago. 

The Danish antibiotic monitoring system makes it easy to monitor such antibiotics in Danish pig herds. In one instance, for example, the use of fluoroquinolone was recorded at a Danish farm. It turned out that the farmer’s dog had been treated with the antibiotic, but the usage had been mis-registered. 

Read also: 5 facts about animal welfare in pig housing units

The annual report on medicinal consumption among European livestock shows that the majority of countries continue to use fluoroquinolones, third and fourth generation cephalosporins and colistin, but that consumption has been declining in recent years. 

Antibiotic usage in Danish pig production

A reduction in antibiotic consumption has high priority. However, it is important that we can still treat our animals whenever necessary. The initial steps to reduce antibiotic consumption are the easiest. Phasing out the use of medicinal zinc for pigs will make further reductions difficult and presents a significant challenge to pig production. 

Facts about the use of zinc in piglet production

There are two types of zinc used in piglet production. 
Mineral zinc as a feed additive for piglets which is a vital mineral for pigs’ normal growth. 
There is also medicinal zinc, which is a veterinary medicine used to treat E-coli diarrhoea in piglets. Medicinal zinc, which is added to feed, is a medicine available on prescription from a veterinarian. It is this type of zinc that has to be phased out from pig production by 2022. 

Nicolai Rosager Weber

Veterinarian

+45 3339 4457


Jan Dahl

Chief consultant and veterinary

+45 33 394 406