A new BelVet-Sac report confirms the declining use of antibiotics in livestock farming. Two of the three reduction targets have already been achieved.

date: 27/06/2018

The results for 2017 confirm the trends of previous years with a reduced use of -7.4% mg active substance/kg biomass compared to last year. This is the biggest annual drop since 2011. Compared to the reference year 2011 it represents a total decrease of -25.9%.

To combat antibiotic resistance it is very important to monitor antibiotic use in animals. That is why BelVet-Sac (Belgian Veterinary Surveillance of Antibiotic Consumption) and the AMCRA knowledge centre analyse annually  data gathered from wholesalers-distributors of veterinary medicines and compound feed manufacturers (who produce medicated feed) in the new BelVet-Sac report. The FAMHP actively cooperates with these organisations

In addition to these general reports, veal farmers received the first personalised results for antibiotic use from SANITEL-MED earlier this month.

Figures for 2017

In 2017, antibiotic use decreased by 7.4% mg active substance/kg biomass compared to 2016. Since 2011, total use has decreased by -25.9%, mainly with reduced use of premixes (-66.6%) and to a lesser extent pharmaceuticals (-16.4%).

Expressed in absolute quantities of the active substance, there is a reduced use of -8.3%. This means -46.3% for premixes and -1.6% for pharmaceuticals. In 2017 there was a decrease in the total animal biomass of -0.8%.

There is also a continuous and strong decline for the fourth year in a row in the use of colistin (-13.3%). Since 2012, when zinc oxide (ZnO), which mainly replaces colistin, was licensed, there has been a total reduction of -62.8% in the use of that class of antibiotics.

In addition to the sharp decrease in colistin, there is also a markedly reduced therapeutic use of ZnO. It means a reduced use of one third (-33.6%) compared to 2016. It is the second year in a row that the use of ZnO has declined, indicating that more and more alternative treatments are being used.

Additional good news is also the substantial reduction (-64.6%) in the use of ‘red molecules’, these are critical substances of great importance for human medicine.

Largest decline in pig farming

The new report outlines an evolution in use per animal species or animal sector. Because many antibiotics are licensed for use in different animal species, this is not easy. Nevertheless, we see the largest drop in products licensed for pigs or for pigs and poultry. This is not really surprising given the significant decrease in the use of premixes that are used almost exclusively in pigs.

For the first time, the evolution in the use of intramammary products in dairy cattle was investigated. There was a substantial decrease between 2013 and 2015 (-30.1%). This has not happened in the last two years, however, with a limited increase of +2.6% being recorded. This evolution reflects the decreased use of systematic dry cow therapy while the use of udder preparations to treat mastitis remains relatively stable. The dairy farming sector will also have to take further steps to reduce antibiotic use. Finally, in 2017 a limited decrease in the use of antibiotics in dogs and cats was observed for both the total use (-3.5%) and for the use of critically important antibiotics ("red molecules") of -7%.

Two out of three objectives achieved

Since 2011, the use of antibacterial premixes has already decreased by a total of -66.6%. A first strategic objective of AMCRA and the Convention with the Belgian government, namely 50% less use of premixes, is therefore amply achieved within the anticipated time frame.

For critical substances, there has been a total reduction of -84.4% since 2011, with a specific reduction of -75% by 2020. This second objective was also widely achieved and indeed three years before the deadline.

Despite the promising results for 2017, a 24% decrease is still to be achieved by 2020. The third global target of a 50% reduction in use of antibiotics by 2020 remains feasible but undoubtedly requires lasting efforts from all parties involved

Last updated on 27/06/2018