Responsible use of Antimicrobials in Pig Production

RUMA guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials by pig farmers have been designed to provide quick and easy-to read guiding principles that can be used by pig producers.

Antimicrobials have made a major contribution to improving the health and welfare of pigs for several decades. They are vital medicines for the treatment and control of bacterial infections in pigs.

The emergence of antimicrobial resistance as a serious problem in human medicine has prompted concerns that resistance or resistant bacteria could be transferred from livestock to human population (and vice versa). The effectiveness of some human antimicrobial treatments might be compromised if this occurred.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is a coalition of organisations representing every stage of the “farm to fork” process. RUMA seeks to establish practical strategies to enable farms to reduce the need to use antimicrobials in animal production, and provides guidance on the responsible use of antimicrobials where a veterinary surgeon has directed that they are needed to safeguard the health and welfare of the animals.

To communicate these strategies effectively to the industry RUMA has worked with industry organisations to produce guidelines for the responsible use of antimicrobials in pigs and other livestock. These Guidelines summarise the responsibilities of pig farmers, gives advice on strategies to reduce the need for usage and, where necessary, how to use antimicrobials responsibly to safeguard the health and welfare of their animals.


All farmers have a responsibility for the health and welfare of the animals on their farm. This is a joint responsibility with their veterinary surgeon to ensure the correct and appropriate use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics. Farmers and stock-keepers can play a major role in ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials on farms by following the guidelines published here. Similar guidelines form part of most farm assurance schemes.

  • All pig farmers must be totally committed to producing safe food.
  • Pig farmers have a duty and responsibility to safeguard the health and welfare of animals on their farm.
  • Pig farmers should manage their farm to reduce the risk of disease challenge and, therefore, the need to use antibiotics and other medicines.
  • Draw up, implement and regularly review an appropriate herd health plan that outlines routine preventive treatments (e.g. biosecurity, vaccination and worming programmes etc.) and disease control policy, in association with the attending veterinary surgeon.
  • Follow the Four Golden Rules on Disease Control in the table on page 6.
  • Antimicrobial use should not prop up poor husbandry or failing management systems. Where required, antimicrobials should be viewed as an acceptable veterinary treatment complementing good management, good nutrition, vaccination, biosecurity and farm hygiene.
  • Treatment with a medicine that requires a veterinary prescription should only be initiated with formal veterinary approval. In-feed medication must be covered by a Medicated Feedingstuff(MFS) Prescription.
  • Accurate information must be given to the attending veterinary surgeon to ensure that the correct diagnosis, medication and dosage can be calculated.
  • Clear instructions regarding diagnosis, medication, dosage and administration must be made available by the veterinary surgeon in written form to all who are involved in the care of animals concerned.
  • The prescribing veterinary surgeon must be made aware of other medicines being administered to the animals concerned so that adverse reactions can be avoided.
  • Don’t be surprised if your vet wants to take samples as these can be used for testing to help choose the right antibiotic to treat your animals.
  • A hospital pen should be available to isolate sick pigs which should be kept in different groups if they do not have the same illness. This allows easy treatment of sick animals and prevents spread of disease to healthy pigs.
  • Do not borrow medicines or move products between farms. All prescribed antimicrobials are specific to the site and population for which they are prescribed.
  • Do not use illegally obtained antibiotics.
  • Medicines should not be mixed before injection without the approval of your veterinary surgeon. Mixing may result in damage to the active ingredient or result in unforeseen adverse reactions, which could have serious consequences for the animals and the consumer. This consideration includes the mixing of antibiotics with iron injections.
  • Do not administer two or more antibiotics concurrently unless specifically advised by your veterinary surgeon.
  • The full course of treatment at the correct dosage must always be calculated and administer in a careful manner having accurately determined the weight of the animal(s) to be treated. Make sure that only target animals receive the medication.
  • For in-feed or in-water medication ensure that the end of medication is accurately determined by cleaning the header tank and pipes or feed bin auger lines and equipment used to handle food as appropriate.
  • Ensure water soluble antibiotics are compatible with other water additives (such as organic acids) prior to use.
  • Make sure that the appropriate withdrawal period is complied with before the slaughter of treated animals. The withdrawal time required should be specified on the Medicated Feedingstuff Prescription in the case of in-feed antimicrobials; or on the label of the medicine; or may be set by the veterinary surgeon. The withdrawal period stated on the SPC/label is a minimum required. The veterinary surgeon may extend this in certain circumstances.
  • Be alert to the possibility of sows consuming medicated creep food in farrowing rooms which may have implications for withdrawal if culled at weaning.
  • An animal medicines record book/on-line record, copies of relevant regulations and Codes of Practice must be kept safely on farm (e.g. the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) Code of Practice on the Responsible Use of Animal Medicines on the Farm available at
  • Accurate information recording the identity of the treated pigs and the nature of the condition being treated must be kept. Records should also include the batch number, amount and expiry date of the medicine used, plus treatment time and date information for each animal treated and the withdrawal period that must be observed. Medicine records required by legislation must be kept for at least five years (even if the pigs in question have been slaughtered).
  • Appropriate information on all medicines used should be readily available to stock-keepers and kept on file e.g. product data sheets, package inserts or safety date (COSHH) sheets.
  • Follow the manufactures’ advice on the stage of medicines and the disposal of unused medicines (check the label or package insert). Safely dispose of unwed or out-of-date medicines and containers and application equipment (including needles to a sharps container) when you finish the treatment for which they were intended. It may be possible to return unused medicines to the prescribing veterinary surgeon or supplier for disposal. Follow Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) guidelines and veterinary advice on remixing or reworking of batches of medicated feed.
  • Any suspected adverse reaction to a medicine in either the treated animals (including any unusual failure to respond to medication) or farm staff having contact with the medicine should be reported immediately to the VMD and the supplier. The adverse reaction can be reported directly to the VMD by the farmer or throughout the prescribing veterinary surgeon or the supplier. Adverse reaction forms can be found on the VMD’s website A record of the adverse reaction should also be kept on the farm; either a copy of the VMD adverse reaction form or a note in the medicines record book.
  • Co-operate with and observe the rules of farm assurance scheme that monitor medication and withdrawal period compliance.
  • Working with the farm veterinary surgeon, regularly collate, record, review and discuss antimicrobial use and monitor the effectiveness of antimicrobials used.
  • Regularly investigate, with your veterinary surgeon the possibility of alternatives (particularly through changes to management techniques or vaccination) to see if they can offer the same level of protection of health and welfare and thus reduce the use of antimicrobials.
  • Your veterinary surgeon should use narrow spectrum antimicrobials where possible and only use fluoroquinolones or 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins where there is no other effective alternative based upon laboratory testing and on farm experience.
  • Animal keepers and stockmen should have the appropriate levels of husbandry skills and knowledge to provide appropriate standards of care for the pigs e.g. appropriate needle/syringe use, where to inject the pig. Good recording regimes monitoring the health of the pigs should be adopted throughout the farm system with regular management input from the farm veterinary surgeon. The overall aim should be to maximise animal health and welfare through good management protocols, resulting in antimicrobials being used as little as possible but as much as necessary.

Four golden rules

The full version of these guidelines can be downloaded here.

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