BACKGROUND: Antimicrobial use (AMU) has decreased significantly in Dutch pig farms since 2009. However, this decrease has stagnated recently, with relatively high AMU levels persisting mainly among weaners. The aim of this study was to identify farm-level characteristics associated with: i) total AMU and ii) use of specific antimicrobial classes.

METHODS: In 2020, cross-sectional data from 154 Dutch pig farms were collected, including information on AMU and farm characteristics. A mixed-effects conditional Random Forest analysis was applied to select the subset of features that was best associated with AMU.

RESULTS: The main risk factors for total AMU in weaners were vaccination for PRRS in sucklings, being a conventional farm (vs. not), high within-farm density, and early weaning. The main protective factors for total AMU in sows/sucklings were E. coli vaccination in sows and having boars for estrus detection from own production. Regarding antimicrobial class-specific outcomes, several risk factors overlapped for weaners and sows/sucklings, such as farmer's non-tertiary education, not having free-sow systems during lactation, and conventional farming. An additional risk factor for weaners was having fully slatted floors. For fatteners, the main risk factor for total AMU was PRRS vaccination in sucklings.

CONCLUSIONS: Several factors found here to be associated with AMU. Some were known but others were novel, such as farmer's tertiary education, low pig aggression and free-sow systems which were all associated with lower AMU. These factors provide targets for developing tailor-made interventions, as well as an evidence-based selection of features for further causal assessment and mediation analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105307
JournalResearch in Veterinary Science
Early online date16 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2024


  • Animal welfare
  • Antibiotics
  • Biosecurity
  • Random Forest
  • Swine
  • Weaners


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