Lowering antibiotic usage and phasing out pharmaceutical zinc oxide in Danish pig herds: Pig farmers’ and veterinarians’ experiences and perceptions

Hanne Kongsted*, Eimear Theresa Mc Loughlin

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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The usage of antibiotics in pig production is much debated due to the risk for antimicrobial resistance where routine usage is necessary to protect animal welfare. Denmark has a relatively low usage of antibiotics in pigs. Thus, the Danish context provides critical insight on how to achieve a lower usage of antibiotics in pigs, and experiences from Danish farmers and veterinarians are useful when debating possibilities for reduction. In this study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with ten pig farmers and six pig veterinarians in Denmark to examine how they perceived animal welfare to be affected in herds where the usage of antibiotics or pZnO had been reduced. The study aimed to explore dilemmas and difficulties in relation to protection of animal welfare while having a low usage of medicine. The interviews were conducted in spring 2022, thus, prior to the ban on pZnO in June 2022. We found that the participants in the study had many positive experiences with achieving a lowered need for antibiotics and pZnO. By upgrading on feeding and management and focusing on prevention of diseases, many herds had succeeded in lowering the usage of medicine with no harmful effect on animal welfare. Many years of strict regulatory measures was highlighted as a major reason for this success, but other contextual factors such as production within the “Pure Pork” concept, which provides an economic reward for pigs raised without use of antibiotics, were also acknowledged to play a positive role. The study illustrated how antibiotics are an integrated part of everyday practice in pig herds. Systemic conditions like difficult employee situations, breeding for high prolificacy and bad economy came forward as major explanations for usage of antibiotics. The study also pointed out how antibiotics were sometimes used routinely and thereby highlighted how reductions should still be achievable. Examples were systematic injections to all piglets at birth and to sows post farrowing. In some cases, routine use was explained by having many employees in the pig herds with no education in how to take care for pigs or how to recognize disease. Avoiding pen or batchwise medication of weaners and thereby avoid treatment of healthy animals was a point of controversy, putting spotlight on grey zones and challenges between productivity and animal welfare.

TidsskriftLivestock Science
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2023


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