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1. The withdrawal of all growth-promoting feed medica- tions except for traditional Chinese medicine. This inten- tion was turned into legislation on 1 July 2020. From that date no feed could contain antibiotics; they can only be used to treat diseases;


2. The revision of product quality standards so antimicrobi- als are used only for prevention or treatment, but not for growth promotion; and


3. The approval of antimicrobials only for veterinary medi- cine, not for veterinary medicine additive purposes.


Promoting growth without resistance risk Since the ban on antibiotics, many companies have focused on producing products to promote growth and boost animal health without the risk of antimicrobial resistance. Rabobank researchers Jingyan Sun and Chenjun Pan think that this fo- cus on innovation and change will remain, and feed players who can change the following aspects of their business will gain in the market: • Upgrading feed formulation: Raw material compo- sition and nutrition ratio are key for antibiotic-free feed. Meeting the needs of animals at different growth stages will become more important, and companies will have to adjust the protein content to reduce the abnormal fer- mentation of undigested protein in the hindgut, which is harmful to intestinal health;


• Investing in R&D and substituting antibiotics. The ban on antibiotics triggers the growth of some feed additives such as enzymes and acidifiers. This category is gaining importance and will be applied in feed to make up for the lack of antibiotics and contribute to


improved nutrition digestion and growth promotion; and


• Mangaging feed production: This allows feed manu- facturers to reduce pollution by harmful micro-organisms. According to Sun and Pan, manufacturers should pay more attention to raw material procurement to ensure quality and supply stability.


In addition to these three aspects, novel products are crucial in animal health. Among antibiotic substitutes, MARA identi- fied probiotics and Chinese medicine as potential candidates for new product research.


Challenges ahead Though China has achieved remarkable results in reducing antibiotic usage, the road ahead is challenging. According to Professor Thomas Van Boeckel, epidemiologist at ETH Zurich, who works on tracking the world’s antibiotic consumption, data transparency is key. Quoted in Nature, he argued that as the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics, China would do well to take a leading role in systematically monitoring anti- microbial resistance and making data publicly available. The Chinese livestock sector, too, faces challenges. Rabobank researchers Sun and Pan expect that antibiotic usage on-farm will increase in China, and that disease outbreaks may hit the livestock sector even harder. They state that biosecurity is key: those farms that have no proper biosecurity measures in place will suffer great pressure, and those with better biose- curity and farm management will fare better. Investment in the industry will focus on husbandry practice and on hardware improvement (equipment, housing, software). Whether China’s plan to reduce antibiotics will be sufficient to tackle the challenges ahead remains to be seen.


▶ PIG PROGRESS | Volume 37, No. 7, 2021 13


This Chinese greenhouse was converted into a pig house.


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