Dutch farmers have shown that reducing antibiotics use in livestock farming is possible without negatively impacting overall economic and technical farm performance, according to a Rabobank report.
“Breaking the habit: Antibiotic Reduction in Livestock Farming” looks into a sustainable minimum use of antibiotics balancing management of antimicrobial resistance, productivity, animal welfare, and consumer interest.
According to Rabobank, this development counters the risk of antimicrobial resistance, which is a key driver for policymakers and industry players around the world to reduce the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
“In mainstream animal protein production, a sustainable minimum for antibiotics usage is the carefully formulated answer to a complex equation of preventing antimicrobial resistance, maintaining efficiency in production, improving animal welfare, and satisfying consumer demand,” says Karen Heuvelmans, industry analyst Farm Inputs at Rabobank.
The sector substantially reduced its use of antibiotics, without negatively affecting its competitive position, in a globalized market.
And, one of the key success factors in the Netherlands was setting up a government task force, together with the livestock sector, to determine appropriate goals and actions.
Following warning signs of growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the risk of severe negative socioeconomic and public health consequences triggered stricter regulations and has led to a decline in antibiotic use in livestock farming, says Rabobank.
Several European countries banned the use of certain antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) during the 1990s and the EU saw a complete ban on all AGP use by 2006 and now several countries have legislation in place to curb farm antibiotic use.
Antibiotic use in the Dutch livestock sector decreased by 64 percent (2016). In recent years this reduction was supported by a move towards slower growing chicken breeds in the broiler sector. Despite the reduction, the annual results of “conventional” Dutch livestock farms show no negative impact on key farm performance indicators, e.g., financial results, animal health costs, feed efficiency, and mortality rates.