Antibiotics use versus profitability on sow farms in the Netherlands

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In 2009, the Dutch government provided policy objectives (i.e., targets) for a reduction in veterinary antibiotics use of −20 % in 2011, −50 % in 2013 and −70 % in 2015 relative to the use in 2009. The relationship between antibiotics use and performance of Dutch sow farms during this policy reform was analysed using the Farm Accountancy Data Network database comprising cross-sectional farm data from 2004 to 2016. The results show that there is a significant downward trend in antibiotics use of 57 %. Panel data analysis (n = 74 sow farms) revealed that the reduction in antibiotic use did not lead to negative effects on technical or economic farm results. A follow-up survey was conducted on measures taken to improve animal health, which made the reduction in antibiotic use feasible. Of the 79 sow farmers approached, 55 participated in this survey. Sow farmers used a variety of relatively easy and affordable measures, such as more attention to hygiene, use of pain killers and anti-inflammatory agents, or applied more preventive vaccinations. Multivariable linear regression models showed that the intention, perceived risk and uncertainty, and perceived capability (to keep or get the use of antibiotics under the target value) were the most important predictors for antibiotics use from 2014 to 2016. Sow farmers who used more antibiotics were more concerned that low antibiotics use compromises their farm results, perceived more risk and uncertainty, and thought to a lesser extent that they have enough knowledge and time. These results indicate that providing these farmers with knowledge and information on management practices to reduce the use of antibiotics may be helpful. Thereby, it would be useful to focus on continuous involvement of the veterinarian and possibly the feed supplier, preferably by means of individual advice, as the results showed that individual advice was the preferred way to gather knowledge for the interviewed sow farmers and the veterinarian appeared to be the most important source of information to the interviewed sow farmers, followed by the feed supplier. In summary, the study shows that decrease in antibiotics use can be quite successful without compromising on the economic or technical performance, and moreover taking into account farmers’ attitudes, perceptions and preferences can be helpful to get a better understanding of farmers’ decision making and is useful for the design of tailor-made interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104981
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Antibiotics use
  • Behavioural factors
  • Farm results
  • Panel data
  • Survey


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