Red Tractor launches pig antibiotic-recording scheme

Pig producers that are Red Tractor-certified will be required to use the electronic medicine book (e-MB) to record the total collated antibiotics used on their herds every three months. 

According to Red Tractor, the industry has expressed its support for the initiative, which will help it to demonstrate how producers are taking steps to reduce antibiotic usage.

Collected data will also assist the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance’s (RUMA) Targets Task Force (TTF) in setting realistic reduction targets for the sector, as national usage figures for UK pig holdings do not exist at present. The e-MB is a website developed by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Pork to record data on antibiotic usage in the pig sector.

Whereas Red Tractor-assured farms have recorded all medicines that are administered, e-MB has been optional up until now.

“Red Tractor farmers currently administer antibiotics as little as possible, but as much as required,” said Red Tractor’s sector chairman for pigs, Mike Sheldon. “The e-MB will provide that data to demonstrate this point to government and its agencies.”

“During the recent Red Tractor consultation, we asked the whole industry for their comments and have received overwhelming support from retailers, trade associations and animal welfare groups. We appreciate that this will be new to most producers but electronic data will help the pig industry to play its part in tackling antimicrobial resistance – an issue that affects all livestock farmers.”

As of November, producers must have uploaded data from the previous two quarters onto the e-MB, saying how many antibiotics has been used, including in the feed. Moving forward, it must be collated and uploaded on a quarterly basis.

Preparation to meet the new standards must start immediately. Producers are required to upload their antibiotic for quarter two (1 April to 30 June) and quarter three (1 July to 20 September) by 1 November 2017.

“This is a very important step forward to the pig industry,” said National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies. “Collection and collation of on-farm antibiotic usage data is a key commitment of the NPA’s Antibiotic Stewardship programme.

“We are proud of how the pig industry is stepping up to the challenge and taking this big leap forward to demonstrate responsible use of antibiotics, and reduce and refine usage where necessary.”

The news has also been welcomed by RUMA’s secretary general John Fitzgerald. “We are delighted that Red Tractor pig farmers will be required to use the e-MB as this will provide accurate information on antibiotic use in pig production,” he explained.

“This will provide valuable data for farmers managing their antibiotic use and the RUMA TTF. Indeed, as the TTF is required to complete its work in 2017, it would be very helpful if Red Tractor pig farmers used the e-MB as soon as they can.”

Members of the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) have already been briefed that the frequency at which they send in-feed medication reports to their farmer customers will increase from six monthly to quarterly, with AHDB Pork saying it is willing to help producers should they require assistance.

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