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Follow the Danish way

Denmark’s performance in eliminating unnecessary use of veterinary medicine in livestock is regarded as exemplary in many quarters. In addition to using less medicines overall, Danish farmers have already phased out the use of cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, both of which are widely used in human medicine.

The industry has also committed to finding alternative treatments to tetracyclines, whose use fell by 20% in the first six months of 2015.

The annual DANMAP survey in Denmark has tracked the use of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in livestock, the food chain and the human population since 1996 and has informed many initiatives taken to ensure more prudent use of veterinary medicines.

The DANMAP report for 2014 highlighted that pig producers reduced the overall use of antibiotics by 5% compared to the previous year. The latest information from the European Medicines Agency confirms that Denmark is the lowest user of veterinary medicines among the EU’s main pig and poultry producing countries.

In the UK, new guidelines for the use of veterinary medicines were published in October by the Pig Health & Welfare Council and the Pig Veterinary Society. The main focus was to introduce more formal processes for the review of antibiotic treatments on individual farms.

Danish experiences

December saw the publication of the 3rd Report under the 'Review of Antimicrobial Resistance', entitled 'Reducing unnecessary use and waste'. The Review was established by David Cameron in 2014 and its purpose was to encourage public debate about more prudent use of antibiotic medicines for treatment of human and animal disease across the globe.

The report references many of the Danish pig industry’s initiatives to eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics, commenting that:

"Denmark has combined low use with being one of the largest exporters of pork in the world.”

"Denmark reduced its antibiotic consumption more than any other country in Europe, but it had the second highest growth rate in agricultural productivity, with this increasing by 65 percent against the European average of just 25 per cent in the same period."

"It is very difficult for governments and international bodies to observe what type of use a farmer is undertaking, or even the amount of antibiotics they are using. Checking this requires some sort of oversight, which countries like Denmark have invested heavily in, but other European states have mostly ignored.”