European survey: biosecurity is the best alternative to antibiotics
Even if there are differences according to the nationality of the respondents, expert of
the pig farming industry are of the opinion that biosecurity is the best alternative to
antibiotic use. They are also in favour of the use of zinc oxide and vaccines, but
remain very reserved about the use of feed additives.
A survey among pig health experts from different European countries aimed to assess and
compare alternatives to antimicrobials. Results showed that respondents favoured the
importance of hygiene measures, batch management and increased vaccination. The use of
zinc oxide was also seen favourably.
Researchers if the Minapig project listed 19 groups of alternatives to antibiotics, ranging from
the acidification of drinking water to the communication between farmer and veterinarian, and
including water quality and zinc oxide. Each respondent was asked to give a score from 0 to
10 for three criteria: perceived effectiveness on the reduction in disease and/or antibiotic use,
on-farm feasibility and potential return on investment.
About half of the 111 respondents from the 6 participating countries (Belgium, Denmark,
Germany, France, Sweden and Switzerland) were veterinarians. The five alternatives with the
highest average scores (for the three criteria) were
1. Improved internal biosecurity (7.5/10).
2, 3, 4. More vaccination, the use of zinc/metals, and the optimisation of feed quality (ex
aequo at 7.2/10).
5. The set-up of an animal health action plan, based on diagnosis (7.0/10).
Financially speaking, in spite of the lack of published data on the subject, internal biosecurity
is perceived as the most profitable measure (7.6/10), outranking zinc oxide (7.0/10) and, on a
shared third place, improved climate/environmental control, feed quality and action plans
The nationality of the respondents was of influence on the outcome: the Belgians and Swiss
placed biosecurity, internal and external, at first place of the alternatives. The German,
French, Danish and Swiss respondents place internal biosecurity above external biosecurity.
Vaccination comes first in Switzerland but did not score well in Belgium or Sweden. In
France, the set up of eradication programmes and of specific pathogen-free sector is the
alternative of choice.
In the discussion, the authors do not list the last-comers. The bottom place goes to feed
additives (19th place, 5.1/10), just behind genetics (18th, 5.2) and the implementation of an
antibiotic tax (17th, 5.3). Comparing the prescribing behaviour of veterinarians comes in 15th
place, unpopular with respondents.
Alternatives to the use of antimicrobial agents in pig production: A multi-country expertranking of perceived effectiveness, feasibility and return on investment.
Postma M, et al. Prev. Vet. Med., 2015, AOP, 34 p.

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