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Fight against antibiotics in livestock farming bearing fruit

Antibiotic resistance in livestock farming is an enormous challenge worldwide. In response to this risk, Amcra – the knowledge centre for the use of antibiotics and resistance in animals – formulated ambitious targets to reduce the use of antibiotics in Belgian livestock farming. In 2018, the organisation recorded the largest reduction in the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine since 2011.

Ambitious targets to reduce the use of antibiotics in ‘2020 Vision’

In 2014, Amcra defined three ambitious targets to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock farming in its ‘2020 Vision’ plan:

  1. A decrease in the total use of antibiotics by 50% by the end of 2020.
  2. A decrease in the use of critical antibiotics by 75% by the end of 2020.
  3. A decrease in the use of feeds medicated with antibiotics by 50% by the end of 2017.

These targets were furthermore endorsed by the Belgian Federal government and all the partners in the sector.

Record drop in use of antibiotics

The majority of the results are very positive and, in the meantime, 2 of the 3 targets have been achieved. For the total use of antibiotics, Amcra recorded a decrease of 12.8% compared to 2017 and of 35.4% compared to 2011. As far as the use of critical antibiotics is concerned, there was an increase of 34.4% in 2018. Although if we compare to 2011, we can see a reduction of 79.1% so that the pre-established target of 75% was more than achieved. The use of feeds medicated with antibiotics has also decreased. The reduction achieved between 2011 and 2018 is an impressive 69.8%.

Results use of antibiotics in livestock farming.jpg

Pig sector top of the class

What is new in 2018 is the publication of the data on the use of antibiotics collected at the level of the individual livestock farms for the pig, veal calf, broiler and laying-hen sectors. For the pig sector, Amcra could already see that, thanks to the benchmarking system, the use of antibiotics has reduced. This is confirmed by the data collected in the AB Register since 2014. “As has already been proven by the pig sector, benchmarking makes it possible to create more awareness amongst livestock farmers and vets. This will have a positive impact to achieve further reduction in the total use of antibiotics”, says Dr. Fabiana Dal Pozzo, AMCRA coordinator.

First decrease in antibiotic resistance

Thanks to the reduction in the use of critical antibiotics, we can already see a clear reduction in the resistance to these antibiotics. The resistance to frequently used antibiotics on the other hand remains just as high as in 2011. This once again shows how important it is that the sector continues its efforts. However, it is encouraging that the cooperation between AMCRA, the authorities and all the other organisations involved is leading to concrete, positive results. This offers additional motivation for all the parties involved who are committing to the reduced and sustainable use of antibiotics in animals in the fight against antibiotic resistance.