News - September 8, 2010

Antibiotics target not reached yet

The use of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming went down in 2009 compared to the previous year, but remained higher than in 2007, LEI figures reveal.

The agricultural economics institute LEI calculated the number of doses of antibiotics administered on livestock farms, using its own spot checks and the sales figures of the FIDIN, the associations of veterinary drugs manufacturers and suppliers in the Netherlands. These show that the dosing of meat chickens and pigs with antibiotics went down slightly in 2009, after rising steeply over the preceding years. But levels of antibiotics given to sows and piglets went up last year, after a slight drop the year before. Among dairy cattle, antibiotics use went down for the first time. Altogether, twenty percent fewer antibiotic drugs were sold than in 2008.
This reduction is far too small to make it feasible to meet the Dutch government's target of reducing antibiotics use by 50 percent by 2011, admit agricultural organization LTO and veterinary organization KNMVD. Yet the latter still expects a reduction of 50 percent next year to be doable. The front-runners among the livestock farmers use 90 per cent fewer antibiotics than the average, says director Martin Scholten of the Animal Sciences Group in this month's Wageningen World. The livestock sector should focus on the best livestock farmers and not on the stragglers, thinks Scholten. 'If the standard set by the front-runners becomes the norm, antibiotics use will go down by a factor of ten.'