Bpex proposes pig welfare assessment

New welfare assessments for finisher pigs are to be proposed for inclusion in Red Tractor Assurance farm standards.

If passed, the new welfare assessments will come into place in April and will provide pig producers with practical systems to help improve welfare, as well as providing scientific evidence to demonstrate husbandry standards to the customer.

Welfare coordinator at Bpex Nina Wainwright said: “For the first time, the English pig industry has scientifically-robust welfare measures, which assess what the pigs themselves are telling us, rather than just assessing the pen or environment they are in.

“The Red Tractor proposal, currently open for consultation, is for vets to carry out the assessments as part of the quarterly vet review visits. Real Welfare uses the same methods for all units, whether indoors or outdoors, or on straw or slats.

“The industry’s extensive practical research, working with the universities of Bristol and Newcastle, has narrowed it down to just five measures, which we have proven to be useful – lameness, tail lesions, body marks, enrichment use and hospitalisation.”

Rob Mercer is one of the producers who took part in the practical research. Mercer explained that although there were costs involved, the improvements that could be made would possibly improve production and even costs.

Mercer said: “I see the assessments as a good, simple way of viewing husbandry across all systems and as a good way of safeguarding our better-welfare brand of British pork.”

Through providing real welfare, Bpex said the pig industry could be in a good position to offer a single “welfare outcome” measurement system, rather than the various ones offered by individual retailers and foodservice companies.

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