DENMARK - The Danish pig industry has declared that all its farmers will be ready to implement the sow stall ban when it comes into operation in 2013.
The most recent estimate indicates that around 85 per cent of producers are already keeping pregnant sows in group systems.
Of those who have not yet converted, a significant number are in the final stages of adapting their production to comply by the deadline date on 1 January, the Danish pig farmers announced at the Herning Congress.
However, the Danish pig producers are concerned that others in the EU will not meet the demands of the legislation and they have called on the EU not to have a derogation for those who do not meet the standards.
Those Danish producers, who will not be converting their facilities to meet the sow stall ban, will stop production by December. These operators mainly run smaller and older units.
"We are almost there," said Asger Krogsgaard, Chairman of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, who is also a producer.
"For many farmers, this has involved considerable investment in updating and modernising their systems. Undoubtedly, it will add to the costs of production for most of these farmers, but many of us have seen the legislation as part of a much wider process, which is continuously improving welfare standards in our production."
In Denmark, throughout the 10-year transitional period, there has been strong support for farmers.
The Danish Pig Research Centre has underlined the importance of compliance and preparedness to its producer members. Using the 'hands on' experience of many farmers, who have already made the transition from traditional stalls to a system based on group housing of pregnant sows, the Centre has provided practical advice on the range of alternatives available.
Mr Krogsgaard stressed the priority attached to enforcing the legislation in Denmark.
"The Danish authorities already run a programme of 'unannounced audits' of pig producers to ensure that they are adhering to all welfare legislation. In addition, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration wrote to all pig herd owners and pig veterinarians to make it clear that any breach of legislation found during their welfare inspection programme would be reported to the police," he said.
"Furthermore, the Danish authorities have also made it clear that any producers found not to be complying with the new rules will forfeit their entitlement to support under the EU Single Farm Payment. I am confident that as a country, we will ensure that all the requirements of the new legislation are fully met."
He added: "My main concern is, however, what happens elsewhere in the EU. Although available evidence indicates that there will be varying levels of compliance across other Member States, there should be no 'derogation' from the planned implementation. We stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with our British colleagues on this.
"It is imperative that everyone 'plays to the same rules'. Those producers who have invested and thus increased their costs of production have to be rewarded by strong, consistent enforcement of the new law across the EU.
"There should not be any distortion of the market. The EU and individual countries' authorities must adopt a consistent and rigorous approach to enforcement from the outset," added Mr Krogsgaard.