Pigs reared on many farms are mass-medicated for short periods with antibiotics through their drinking water to control bacterial pathogen loads and, if a disease outbreak occurs, to treat pigs until clinical signs are eliminated. Farm managers are responsible for conducting in-water antibiotic dosing events, but little is known about their dosing practices. We surveyed managers of 25 medium to large single-site and multi-site pig farming enterprises across eastern and southern Australia, using a mixed methods approach (online questionnaire followed by a one-on-one semi-structured interview). We found wide variation in the antibiotics administered, the choice and use of dosing equipment, the methods for performing dosing calculations and preparing antibiotic stock solutions, the commencement time and duration of each daily dosing event, and the frequency of administration of metaphylaxis. Farm managers lacked data on pigs’ daily water usage patterns and wastage and the understanding of pharmacology and population pharmacometrics necessary to optimize in-water dosing calculations and regimens and control major sources of between-animal variability in systemic exposure of pigs to antibiotics. There is considerable scope to increase the effectiveness of in-water dosing and reduce antibiotic use (and cost) on pig farms by providing farm managers with measurement systems, technical guidelines, and training programs.
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