Several organisations in Denmark will jointly be spending 15.5 million Danish crowns (€ 2.01 million) for research into how to reduce the need for antibiotics among Danish pigs. The target is for 1.5 million pigs to be produced without antibiotics by 2021.
Danish agriculture is aiming to further reduce the amount of antibiotics used in production and, moreover, to produce pigs without the use of antibiotics. Environment and food minister Esben Lunde Larsen stated in a press release: “This project means we’re taking an important step towards being able to produce more pigs without the use of antibiotics.”
Contributions from many relevant organisations
The project is being hosted by processor Danish Crown, the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen University, Statens Serum Institut and SEGES. In addition, the Environment and Food Ministry’s Green Development and Demonstration programme has contributed 12.5 million Danish crowns (€ 1.68 million) to the project.
The purpose is to create a scientifically robust basis for increasing pig production without the use of antibiotics throughout the entire lifecycle of pigs so that antibiotic-free production can become a profitable business.
Trials with antibiotic-free pigs
Danish Crown began its first trials with antibiotic-free pigs just 2.5 years ago and in addition to increasing such production, the aim is for the experience of antibiotic-free producers to be shared among a wider circle. This is possible because the project is not merely based on political will but is primarily market-driven.
Pigs that are produced without antibiotics are not given any antibiotics at all, from birth to slaughter. However, should a pig become ill, it receives treatment and will subsequently be slaughtered and sold as a conventional pig, with all existing protocols regarding withdrawal times being observed.
Denmark hopes to elevate the level of pigs without antibiotics to 1.5 million by 2021. Photo: Henk Riswick
Antibiotic-free pigs must not be fed with animal fat, blood or fish products. The use of relevant vaccines has proved effective in this type of production.
Large scale production is viable
Large scale production appears to be viable. Poul Baekbo, chief consultant at SEGES, said: “Production of antibiotic-untreated pigs is possible to implement as part of existing pig production.” He also pointed out that it requires sustained and consistent focus on the animals and that there is no standard solution. In particular, all in-all out operations, which protect against infection, and specially adapted feed, are important.
Although farmers have already reduced the amount of antibiotics used in production by 25% since 2009, the outlook remains promising. Christian Fink Hansen, SEGES sector director for pig production said: “We welcome the minister’s support for the project so that we can continue to reduce antibiotic consumption and share our positive experiences with the rest of the industry.”
The project will continue until 2021, when 1.5 million pigs are expected to be produced without antibiotics. Nowadays there are about 200,000 pigs produced without antibiotics.