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Medication via liquid feeds – do we need further controls?

In the UK, our Veterinary Medicines Directorate are planning to restrict the use of medicines – medicated feed premixes and water soluble products - in liquid feeds. These medicines will not be allowed to be added to liquid feeds directly. What is the situation in the rest of Europe, how do you medicate liquid feeds?

In the UK, our Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) are planning to restrict the use of medicines – medicated feed premixes (MFPs) and water soluble products (WSPs) - in liquid feeds. These medicines will not be allowed to be added to liquid feeds directly. What is the situation in the rest of Europe, how do you medicate liquid feeds?

We have been fortunate in the UK to be allowed to medicate feed on farm, as well as via the feed mill and there are a set of regulations and guidelines, which have to be followed. Importantly, farms can be licensed to add prescription-only medicines (POM) such as antimicrobial MFPs and are inspected, to check they comply.

Liquid feeding of pigs has always been an important method of rearing pigs, especially in finishers and also in sows. Approximately, 30% of finishing pigs here are on liquid feed and it is a useful method of disposing of nutritious by-products from the dairy and the brewing industries. Many other countries have much higher percentages of pigs on liquid feed (e.g. Ireland, Denmark) since the introduction of Salmonella monitoring and control. It is a useful way of reducing the incidence, especially, if the feed is fermented or acidified to bring the pH down.

The future plan is that MFPs can be only added to dry feed in the normal way and water soluble products can be added to water, in both cases prior to mixing and distribution to pens in the normal way. For pulse feeding where the mixing with water is in small and regular quantities this is fine. However, when there is a large mixing tank, which is strongly agitated and then the contents are thoroughly mixed and pumped out to the troughs, is there really any need to restrict the addition of the premix or a pre-dissolved soluble formulation directly into the tank?

The consultation document states that it is 'To ensure that the correct amount of medicine is consumed and that the risks of over-dosing, proliferation of antimicrobial resistance or poor health through under-dosing are minimised.'

In my experience, feed premixes and water solubles have been successfully added to liquid feeds for over 30 years and generally have been a very effective way of administering treatment to finishing pigs. Where there are big tanks, the quantity of medication to be added, calculated on a mg of drug/kg bodyweight basis, gives a far more accurate dose than in feed concentration in parts per million (ppm). Similarly, with soluble products, the dose can be more accurately determined for the group of pigs, where water intake can fluctuate with temperature. Those pigs that are neither drinking nor eating will need an injection if they are going to survive.

If we do medicate liquid feed directly with premixes or water solubles then it is proposed to be under 'cascade' and a 28 day withdrawal period should be applied. In the UK, there is only one product formally approved for use in liquid feeds and that is for the treatment of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae only. So, if there is an outbreak of dysentery or ileitis towards the end of finishing, one could be in real trouble, as the delay may lead to over-weight pigs.

So what is the situation in other countries? How do you medicate liquid feed? It would be very useful to get some feedback on this – as regulations in one country have a habit of spreading across the rest of the EU.

2 comments

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    Peter Verhoeve - Eurovet Animal Health BV

    Dear David,

    The major problem encountered throughout Europe with authorisations of VMPs for liquid feeds is pharmaceutical legislation.
    It is believed by some/many regulators that the get an authorisation for mixing with liquid feed, one has not only to demonstrate stability, but also bioequivalence with the alternative authorised route of medication (i.e. water/dry feed). Only recently our company got an authorisation for Solacyl (sodium salicylate), but only for water/milk medication in pigs/calves. At application we also requested an authorisatiion for liquid feed and demonstrated that the compound remains fully stable for 24 hours in liquid feed at 30C. We were subsequently requested to demonstrate full bioeuquivalence, which we refused. In the Netherlands there is an unofficial protocol for testing VMP's in liquid feed. A short article was published in the National Pig Health Services Journal(GD Varken 31. Medicaties van varkens per injectie, water of voer. September 2003, p. 10-12 article in Dutch). If one follows that protocol, one can send the results to the IKB (a pig-organisation which controls the complete pig food chain). They determine which products may be included on a list of VMPs suitable for liquid feed medication. So these products are not officially authorised, yet they are approved. Just Google for IKB/positive list/pig and you will find some hits. From there on you may find contact points for further information

    Kind regards

    Peter Verhoeve
    DVM Eurovet AH

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    David Burch

    Many thanks for that Peter. It sound as if it is more on a national regulation than an EU one.
    It would be good to hear from a range of countries if possible.

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