FINLAND - A new study from the University of Helsinki shows that improving animal welfare can have a beneficial impact on sow productivity through an increase in piglets born alive and a shorter farrowing interval.
Actions that improve animal welfare also have an economic impact as they enhance sow production. Good stockmanship and healthier animals result in more piglets born and a shorter reproduction cycle.
Those are the conclusions of Terhi Jääskeläinen and colleagues at the University of Helsinki from their study published in Animal Welfare.
The aims of their study were firstly to investigate the connection between on-farm assessed welfare scores and production parameters for sows, and secondly, to examine how farmers perceive the connection between their disposition, animal welfare and productivity.
They assessed environmental and management preconditions on animal welfare and interviewed farmers on 30 Finnish farms, and studied the relationship between welfare and production using correlation and regression analyses.
The theory of planned behaviour served as an articulation of farmer disposition when studying farmer perceptions.
Concerning the production data, better welfare scores from the ‘health and stockmanship’ category during lactation were correlated with shorter reproduction cycle and fewer stillborn piglets and it also explained some of the variation in the number of piglets per year and the length of the farrowing interval.
The farmers agreed that the productivity parameters and the principles of assessing welfare used in this study were relevant.
A majority of farmers considered that animal welfare affects productivity and that there are associations between farmer attitudes, animal welfare and productivity.
There were no statistical relationships between farmer perceptions and animal welfare; yet on the farms of farmers with positive perceptions about animal welfare and productivity. there were slightly lower piglet mortality rates and lower stillbirth rates than on the farms where less positive views were held.
Jääskeläinen T., T. Kauppinen, K.M. Vesala and A. Valros. 2014. Relationships between pig welfare, productivity and farmer disposition. Animal Welfare. 23: 435-443. doi: 10.7120/096272184.108.40.2065
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