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Weekly Overview: Sow Stalls in Decline in US, EU

05 August 2013

GLOBAL - The number of sows kept in stalls throughout gestation globally is declining as Smithfield Farms confirmed its commitment to phase out this form of housing in the last week. The company has also released a video for consumers, showing sows kept in group-housing systems for most of their pregnancy. Thirteen EU states are now fully compliant with the sow stall ban. Research continues into the cause and spread of the piglet diarrhoea virus, which now affects farms in 16 US states.

Consumer concerns have prompted a large hog operation in Utah, Circle Four Farms, and 459 other farms operated by the world’s largest pork supplier to phase out sow gestation stalls, it has been reported in the last week.

Officials from the parent company, Smithfield Foods, said the company made the decision "based on input from its customers". When completed in 2017, it is estimated that the US conversion will cost about $300 million.

Smithfield's international hog operations will complete conversions to group housing on company-owned farms by 2022.

In other related news from the company, Smithfield Foods has released a video aimed at consumers about group-housing systems for sows.

Executive vice president and chief sustainability officer, Dennis H. Treacy, explained: "We think this is both an entertaining and informative look at how we are caring for pregnant sows, with actual footage from our sow farms that helps to explain how the group housing system ensures the safety, comfort and health of the sows during the gestation process."

A Florida court has ordered the state to pay former pig farmer who was one of two producers who went out of business after the voters in the state approved an amendment banning sow stalls in 2002. The court ruled compensation to the value of $505,000 plus interest.

Turning to the European Union, the European Commission has published the latest position relating to compliance with the partial stall ban across the region.

Thirteen Member States are now fully compliant - Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Infringement procedures are still going on against nine Member States, while the six remaining countries are under investigation.

Returning to biosecurity - our theme of last week - Russia is considering a ban on backyard pig farming as a means to control African Swine Fever.

The cause of the recent rapid spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus (PEDV) across the United States has not yet been identified with certainty but veterinarians and officials are now investigating animal transportation as a major factor.

Based on a wide survey, it emerged that "a substantial number" of trailers transporting animals for the breeding herd are not washed between every load.

In a related study, a number of feed practices have been identified as possible indicators of risk in PEDV transmission. That is the conclusion of a study by the USDA Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health following a survey of pig veterinarians in the US.

The total number of pig farms and diagnostic case submissions testing positive for PEDV has risen to 403, according the latest figures dated 31 July. Sixteen states are now known to have been affected, with Tennessee and Texas reporting their first positive results in the last week.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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