The overall evolution in total tons of active substance (antimicrobial pharmaceuticals antimicrobial premixes) shows a slight decrease of 1.6% from 2009 to 2010. The use of antimicrobial pharmaceuticals has decreased with 5.2%, however the use of antimicrobial premixes has increased with 16.3%. These evolutions are a confirmation of the trend already seen between 2008 and 2009. When looking at the antimicrobial use in function of the biomass a comparable evolution is observed with a decrease of antimicrobial pharmaceuticals of 9.0% and an increase of antimicrobial premixes of 11.6%, resulting in a total decrease of antimicrobials used per kg biomass present of 5.6%. The opposite evolution in use between pharmaceuticals and antimicrobial premixes is likely to be the result of a shift in use from on farm applied pharmaceuticals to in feed administered premixes.
The most applied antimicrobial classes are the sulphonamides and trimethoprim (89 tons, 29.7%) followed by the penicillines (80 tons, 26.7%) and the tetracyclines (74 tons, 24.7%).
These 2010 results confirm the trend already observed in 2009 of a decreasing use of pharmaceuticals and an increasing consumption of antimicrobial premixes resulting in an overall small decrease in the total amount of antimicrobials used in veterinary medicine. When looked at in the perspective of the amount of biomass produced a decrease of 5.6% is observed.
Although these data show a favorable evolution towards a decreased antimicrobial consumption they also show that the reduction is limited in comparison to several other European countries with comparable animal production systems. For many years the antimicrobial consumption per kg biomass in Belgium was lower than for The Netherlands whereas in 2010 for the first time a comparable level is obtained.
These results reemphasize the need for vigorous actions directed to all stakeholders, towards a reduced use of antimicrobials. For this purpose the recently established Knowledge Center on Antimicrobial Consumption and Resistance in Animals in Belgium (AMCRA) which has become fully operational from the first of January 2012, will propose recommendations and guidelines to guide the whole sector towards a rational reduction of the antimicrobial use in animals.
Antimicrobial premixes are used almost exclusively in pig production (>95%). As a result this increase is largely contributable to one production branch. Whether the reduction in pharmaceuticals has also occurred predominantly in pig production cannot be determined based upon the available data since the method of data collection does not allow to differentiate between animal species. However, a sort of trade off in pig production between pharmaceuticals and antimicrobial premixes is likely and therefore the observed opposite evolutions of pharmaceuticals and premixes are probably only a shift from the use of on farm mixed pharmaceuticals to antimicrobial premixes mixed in the medicated feed by the compound feed producers. This trend towards an increased use of antimicrobial premixes is likely related to the stop of the use of the on-truck mixing device (since 2008) for the supplementation of feed with medicines (pharmaceuticals) on farm at the moment of filling into the silo. Also the use of top dressing has been forbidden (since 2009) in pig producers working in accordance to the successful “Certus” quality label (www.certus.be) for pork. This has largely been replaced by the use of medicated premixes in feed produced in the feed mill. It might also be related to the increased availability of different registered antimicrobial premixes. Finally, the use of antimicrobial premixes is perceived as very convenient for farmers and consequentially there are few restrains to withdraw farmers or veterinarians from the use of these products for (preventive) mass medication.
January 2012/ Universiteit Gent/ Belgium.