Model for success: Commission hails Dutch policy on antibiotics

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

'The findings highlight the progress that can be achieved in a relatively short time period to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals, and associated AMR, while safeguarding animal health and welfare and the economic viability of producers.' © istock/Alex Raths
'The findings highlight the progress that can be achieved in a relatively short time period to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals, and associated AMR, while safeguarding animal health and welfare and the economic viability of producers.' © istock/Alex Raths
An EU Commission report has praised the antibiotic reduction efforts in livestock production in the Netherlands.

That country’s livestock sector has seen a very significant decrease in the use of such drugs in farming - a 58.4% decrease in sales from 2009 to 2015, found the Commission.

DG Santé said aspects of the measures put in place in the Netherlands aimed at encouraging the prudent use of antimicrobials in farmed animals could inform antibiotic reduction campaigns in other EU countries’ agricultural sectors.

The report​ followed a DG Santé fact-finding mission on the judicious use of antimicrobials in Dutch livestock production in September 2016.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

“Since prudent use policies have been enacted, there has been a clear and associated decrease seen in levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in broilers, veal calves and pigs in the Netherlands,”​ noted the review.

The policies were set up as a public-private partnership, with such cooperation leading to the setting up of an independent body, the Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Authority, to analyse data on the use of antimicrobials at farm level and to set benchmarks.

DG Santé said the measures that supported rapid antibiotic reduction levels in farming in the Netherlands included transparency in recording and benchmarking antibiotic use on farms, benchmarking of the prescribing patterns of veterinarians, strengthening the role of veterinarians, promoting animal health initiatives and the prudent use in line with official reduction targets. 

chicken antibiotics
'Since prudent use policies have been enacted, there has been a clear and associated decrease seen in levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in broilers, veal calves and pigs in the Netherlands.' © istock

In terms of medicated feed best practice, a risk assessment was performed in 2010 on the carry-over of medicines into non-medicated feed and stricter rules on this issue were implemented. 

Those rules resulted in some feed companies and farmer groups voluntarily phasing out the production and use of premixes and medicated feed. In any case, such use in the Netherlands is relatively low with the tendency to administer antimicrobials via drinking water or in powders for top-dressing of feed, noted the Commission.

“The findings highlight the progress that can be achieved in a relatively short time period to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals, and associated antimicrobial resistance, while safeguarding animal health and welfare, the economic viability of producers and avoiding an excessively legislative approach," ​concluded DG Santé.

Background

In 2009, a Dutch working committee involving farmers, veterinarians, feed companies, slaughterhouses and the animal health service developed a master plan to address the issue of use of antimicrobials in the sector.

Their plan was based on the principles of private quality systems for farmers and veterinarians and included aspects such as creating awareness, monitoring and benchmarking of farmers and veterinarians and setting goals instead of formal regulation.

  • A ‘positive list’ of veterinary medicines to be used was also developed.
  • The plan comprised 10 specific action points:
  • Measuring the use of antibiotics by ADD/year;
  • Performing a baseline assessment for AMR;
  • Promoting the more widespread use of existing knowledge and best practices;
  • Transferring veterinary information;
  • Receiving feedback from slaughterhouses on deviations detected at slaughter;
  • Extra surveillance for farmers who were not members of the quality system;
  • No use of medicated feed;
  • Monitoring illegal use of antibiotics on farms and slaughterhouses;
  • Mandatory registration of veterinarians for the scheme and in the private quality system for veterinarians;
  • Developing a communication plan for stakeholders and society.

The four major sectors - pigs, broilers, dairy cows, veal calves - have been asked to develop their own proposals for antibiotic use reduction plans up until 2020.

piglet
Lower antimicrobial use on Dutch pig farms rewarded... © istock

Pig plan

There is a new master plan for the pig sector. The Netherlands is home to around 5,000 pig farms with a combined population of more than 12 million pigs, according to Rabobank data. 

The strategy is to try and further improve pig health by improving farm management through a traffic light system, rewarding low antibiotic use (green) farms by market rewards and lighter regulation and providing extra assistance to high using (red) farms.

That sector also is also investigating tools that measure the effect of lower antibiotic use on AMR as well as a system to monitor for diseases on farms while continuously researching animal nutrition strategies that could reduce the need for antimicrobial use.

The Commission's review can be read here​.

Related topics: Regulation

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