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Research Impact Highlights - Pigs

Reducing antibiotic usage in pigs

Peadar Lawlor and Elisa Arnaud (AGRIP)

Research Impact Highlights in 2022

Litter size in sows has increased dramatically in the past decade. The challenge now is rearing the additional pigs using minimal medication. The first step should be ensuring adequate colostrum intake for each pig.

Providing pain relief to sows post-farrowing proved the best strategy for increased colostrum intake in piglets. Sows were more receptive to suckling, increasing colostrum intake per piglet, resulting in a 350g increase in weaning weight. Clinical cases of disease per litter were reduced by 65%, reducing the need for antibiotic and anti-inflammatory administration to piglets by 50% and 55%, respectively.

Results were communicated to farmers by newsletter articles and Teagasc Pig Enterprise Advisors. Farmers adopting the practice quickly benefitted from this low-cost intervention, prompting further uptake. By 2023, over 35% of Irish pig farms had adopted the practice. This is important as it increases productivity on Irish pig farms while reducing the need to medicate pigs: good news for combating the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Currently, implementation yields a €43 return per €1 spent, thereby, increasing revenue by €63,000 per annum on an average 600 sow unit.

Contact: peadar.lawlor@teagasc.ie
Other contributors: SETU; UCD.
Funding: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.                                    
Impact Pathway: Technology Development & Adoption.                 

[pic credit] Teagasc