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Reducing Antibiotic Use in Pigs

What are some of the impacts of increased antibiotic usage?

Over the years, antibiotic use has increased due to poor health, often caused by poor nutrition and sanitation, which leads to higher production costs. Antimicrobials are used extensively to address gut health issues in piglets, and a major challenge is finding alternatives to these antimicrobials in order to support the gut during its development. Reducing antimicrobial use should be a goal in all types of production systems and can be achieved by supporting animal health in all stages of production.

The process of reducing antibiotic use in pigs can be challenging, but, as some producers have shown, it can be successfully achieved by focusing on gut health. Approximately 90% of diseases can be traced back to gut health and the pig’s microbiome. Establishing a healthy microbiome in the young piglet will impact the animal for the rest of its life.

3 ways to help reduce antibiotic use in pigs

At first glance, it may seem challenging, but there are many ways to begin the process of reducing the use of antibiotics. There is evidence that pigs might not only be less susceptible to infectious risks but may, in fact, thrive when certain natural feeding supplements are added to the diet. Three key areas to focus on are biosecurity, gut health and nutrition.

  1. Implement a strong biosecurity plan. Effective biosecurity can not only help producers reduce disease challenges but can also prevent the health and welfare challenges that producers face even before antibiotic use. Required measures may include:
    • Altering animal flow, considering all-in all-out production
    • Increased focus on housing and transportation cleanliness
    • Implementing heightened security on those entering facilities
    • Utilizing feed intervention technologies to support feed integrity and prevent disease outbreaks
  2. Optimize gut function. We must keep in mind that a healthy gut is the key to a healthy pig and optimizing gut health and herd welfare can be achieved through a sound nutrition program. A healthy gut is not only a gut without disease; it is an effective digestive organ that can mount a good defense against disease and easily cope with change.
  3. Provide proper nutrition. Piglet nutrition is a critical component for the establishment of normal gut function, from digestion and absorption to barrier function and the development of the immune system. The establishment and maintenance of good gut function is vitally important to reducing piglet morbidity and mortality. Good colostrum quality and the quantity of milk produced by sows are imperative to developing the piglet’s immune system.

To be truly effective, reducing antibiotics cannot be achieved with a single silver bullet. When antibiotics are reduced or completely removed, the front line of defense may be nutrition, but a combination of strategies must also be employed. By powering nutrition with technologies designed to support the animal’s immune and digestive systems, and by implementing a full program focused on maintaining proper health, producers give their operations the best chance for a sustainable and profitable future.