Health

News 3374 views 5 comments

Are in-feed antibiotics necessary for weaner pigs?

The removal of antibiotics from the feed of weaner pigs has been found to have minimal effects on health and welfare indicators.

In addition, there was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low.

Those were some of the major conclusions of a paper that was published by scientists associated with several Irish and one Polish institute in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One.

Prophylactic use of antibiotics in-feed

The researchers wrote as a background that antibiotics are suspected to be a major source of antibiotic resistance and that, following the ban on antibiotics use as growth promoters in the EU, their prophylactic use in-feed is under review.

Read all about pig health in the special Pig Progress Health Tool

They aimed to evaluate the effect of removing prophylactic in-feed antibiotics on pig health and welfare indicators. For that reason, every Monday for 6 weeks, a subset of 70 pigs were weaned, tagged and sorted into 2 groups of 35 pigs according to weight.

10 focal pigs per group

They removed antibiotics from the diet of one group and maintained in the other group for 9 weeks. In total, the scientists chose 10 focal pigs per group. After about 5 weeks, they split each group into 2 pens of about 17 pigs for the following 4 weeks.

The researchers described how data were recorded weekly and how they scored skin, tail, ear, flank and limb lesions of focal pigs according to severity. The number of animals per group affected by health deviations was also recorded. The number of fights and harmful behaviours (ear, tail bites) per group was counted during 3 times 5 minute observations once per week.

The health and welfare of weaner pigs were found to be hardly affected by the removal of in-feed antibiotics. The pigs on this picture did not take part in these trials. Photo: Bert Jansen
The health and welfare of weaner pigs were found to be hardly affected by the removal of in-feed antibiotics. The pigs on this picture did not take part in these trials. Photo: Bert Jansen

Antibiotic-fed pigs were more likely to have tail lesions

At group level, antibiotic-fed pigs were more likely to have tail lesions but less likely to have ear lesions than pigs without antibiotics. The number of ear bites and fights was higher in pigs fed antibiotics than in pigs without antibiotics.

There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low. The scientists closed off by saying that removing antibiotics from the feed of weaner pigs had minimal effects on health and welfare indicators.

The research paper was written by Alessia Diana, Edgar Garcia Manzanilla, Julia A. Calderón Díaz and Laura A Boyle, Teagasc, Fermoy, Ireland; and Finola C. Leonard, University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. Alessia Diana is also attached to the UCD in Dublin; Julia Calderón Díaz is also attached to the Polish Academy of Sciences, Jastrzębiec, Poland.

5 comments

  • And soon we will piblish the data up to slaughterhouse which shows similar results. Two kilos difference in carcass weight and no difference on lung lesions.

  • David Burch

    "There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low." This may explain why there were few significant differences between the groups. If there are no post-weaning diarrhoea problems, streptococcal meningitis and arthritis, Glasser's disease, swine dysentery and ileitis infections, then it is unlikely that antibiotics will show a beneficial effect. From a veterinary perspective, one needs to be careful about generalisations that antibiotics are having no effect. In healthy pigs this is likely to be so but under are useful when infections are endemic on a farm. Regards David

  • GB Borbolla

    I agree with David, in high health pigs kept under good growing conditions, antibiotics might not improve the performance or reduce morbility and mortality; however, under intensive growth environments such as regular farms, antibiotics plays an important role on the growth and health of the animals.

  • Fatima Lasay

    The move towards the ban on antibiotic use (whether prophylactic or as growth-promotant) calls for an improvement on overall health - this means diet, environment and management of pigs, and the separate management of ill pigs that need antibiotic medication. Such a good system should be in place and this will improve the industry overall, improve consumer confidence and perhaps further decrease the need for antibiotics in the first place.

  • Cesar Garbossa

    I agree with Davida and Borbolla, our research group conducted a trial with the use of prophylactic antibiotics for growing-finishing pigs with a good status of health and observed that the antibiotics worsened the performance of the animals. But as they said, we cannot generalize, this happened because the animals had a great health status. So the decision to use or not antibiotics must be studied for each scenario!
    Regards,

Load more comments (1)

Or register to be able to comment.