22. March 2021

Reducing antimicrobial use through improved provision of colostrum and use of vaccines in weaning pigs in Colombia


Pig farming in Colombia has been one of the fastest growing agricultural and economic sectors in the last decade. This has contributed positively to the country’s food security by offering an increasing volume of pork each year to domestic consumers and, equally importantly, generating socio-economic development in the regions where pigs are produced. This increase in production requires strategies to continue positioning pork as one of the preferred protein sources within the Colombian market. Consequently, it is necessary to develop strategies that allow the development of pig productivity at a favorable production cost for the country’s pig farmers, while ensuring animal health and welfare and quality of pork.


Frequently, at weaning, a period in which the intestinal microbiota is changing and the immune system is not fully developed, pathogenic bacteria such as Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) are found in the gastrointestinal tract of piglets, a favorable environment to colonize and multiply. The symptoms are manifested with diarrhea that is frequently observed after weaning, correlating with lower growth, as well as higher morbidity and mortality. A recent survey with the participation of 22 pig farms with more than 400 sows found that 50% of the farms reported diarrhoea cases among piglets during the lactation period. It affected between 5 to 30% of the pig litters. About 20% of the farms had diarrhea problems in the post-weaning stage. Added to this problem, 80.9% of the farms did not diagnose the etiological agent causing the diarrhea. For this reason, vaccines are typically applied without knowledge on the specific pathogen associated with the diarrhea which is then often treated with broad-spectrum antimicrobials. Furthermore, the survey showed large variations in procedures for supplying colostrum. None of the participating pig farms used systematic methods for measuring the efficacy of their efforts and practices to reduce diarrhea and improve immunity (Porkcolombia, 2021).

Project Overview

The project is organized into five work packages:

1. project management includes activities to ensure timely and effective implementation and monitoring of the project. Furthermore, this includes activities to support the regular dialogue of the stakeholders and potential scale-up of the interventions after proof of concept from the other work packages.

2. Clinical trial includes:

  • a survey on colostrum, vaccine and antibiotic use practices in the participating farms,
  • baseline survey on the microbiological aetiology of gastro-intestinal infections,
  • Randomized Control Trial (RCT) to assess the effect of a) an improved colostrum protocol, and b) an improved vaccine protocol.

3. Economic study

4. Qualitative study (together with the economic study) will contribute with evidence on the economic, the behavior of pork producers in making technical and administrative decisions that prevent a better supply of colostrum and vaccine use. This evidence will be used to build a business case to be discussed at the policy-making level to ensure the scaling-up of the interventions beyond the three-year framework of the project. Additionally this project will facilitate the creation of the RAM livestock working table for the swine specie with the participation of the ministry of Agriculture and rural development, and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA). This working table aims to develop the best practice guidelines for the optimization of the use of antimicrobial and supply of technical information applicable for the analysis of regulatory impact.

5. Research capacity building includes the activities for enrolment and completion of a PhD programme, as well as other activities such as the training of junior researchers in research methodology and hands-on experience on implementation of mix-methods methodology.


The aim of the project is to evaluate the effect of two interventions alone and in combination, i.e. improved uptake of colostrum and vaccines, to enhance the piglets’ immune system, thus reducing the incidence of diarrhoea and the need to use antimicrobials. The expected outcomes are as follows:

  • weaning diarrhoea and antimicrobial use reduced by 20%
  • Increase engagement and acceptance among the stakeholders for scaling up the new colostrum and vaccine protocols
  • Increased research capacity within the Colombian context

“This project will contribute with evidence that can be used to advocate and trigger action to draft policies and legislation addressing the prophylactic, metaphylactic and therapeutic use of antimicrobials in pigs, as well as policies addressing access and use of vaccines.”

Corina Zambrano, Executive Vice-President, Porkcolombia


Region: Latin America

Sector: Terrestrial and Aquatic Animals

Country: Colombia

Type: Project

Country partners: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Porkcolombia, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Colombian Agricultural Institute – ICA, Inversiones SOGA S.A, Agropecuaria El Guásimo

Timescale: 1 February 2022 - 31 January 2025

ICARS funding: 532.190 USD

Lead Advisor

Gloria Cristina Córdoba Currea
Mobile (+45) 30 71 58 81
Mail gloriac@icars-global.org
Kristina Osbjer
Phone (+45) 30 63 89 78
Mail kros@icars-global.org