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Swine Welfare Assurance Program

By the National Pork Board - The Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP) is designed to help producers assess their operation’s compliance with the guidelines given in the Checkoff-funded Swine Care Handbook. SWAP consists of nine Care and Well-being Principles (CWPs) each of which are explained in the manual along with suggestions for its implementation. This article provides the introduction to the scheme and links to the various documents that make up the scheme.
calendar icon 19 September 2003
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As a pork producer, your livelihood depends on the welfare and performance of your livestock. If an animal is mistreated or under stress, it will need to eat more feed to grow, will be more susceptible to disease and will generally not thrive.

To do anything short of providing the best, humane care possible to help your animals realize their full productive potential is self-defeating.

There is no scientific consensus about the ‘ideal’ tool to measure animal welfare. It is generally accepted that there are three indications of welfare that should be measured together. These are:

  1. Performance and Health
  2. Behavior
  3. Physiology (for example, immune function and hormonal status or response).

For an accurate picture of welfare, all three indicators must be assessed. There is strong scientific consensus that using any one as a sole indication of welfare can be misleading.

In addition, addressing animal welfare in isolation – without consideration of animal health, food safety and the environment – is unwise and most probably will lead to unintended consequences. Each of these other areas must be addressed simultaneously in a way that ensures an effective balance.

As a pork producer, you have an Animal Welfare Committee that is charged with using producer Checkoff funds to review the science of animal welfare, to relate that science to production practices and to inform producers about the latest, scientifically sound swine husbandry practices that can be implemented on the farm.

The committee has authored the Swine Care Handbook (2003), which is the guideline for producers regarding animal care. Those guidelines are based on the current scientific research and extension literature for animal science, veterinary medicine and agricultural engineering. The Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAPSM) is designed to help producers assess their operation's compliance with the guidelines given in the Swine Care Handbook.

SWAPSM covers the stages of production in two sections - (1) Gilts, Sows, Boars, and Neonatal Piglets and (2) Nursery and Finisher Pigs. Either or both may be applicable to your operation.

SWAPSM is a voluntary, educational tool for all pork producers. Implementing SWAPSM in your operation will help you:

  • Objectively assess and track your animals' welfare,
  • Show packers, retailers and consumers that your pigs' welfare is important to you, and
  • Open new marketing opportunities.

All producers and staff who work with pigs should be thoroughly familiar with the Checkoff-funded Swine Care Handbook, Pork Quality AssuranceTM (PQATM) Program (2001), and the On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine - Options for the Producer (2001). These provide details about animal care, animal handling, facilities, medication withdrawal times and euthanasia.

SWAPSM has been designed as an educational and assessment tool for producers to track the welfare of their animals on farm. This program could also be used as the basis for a third-party audit if it is needed to show markets and consumers that you are raising pigs according to accepted welfare standards.

Pork producers are fully supportive of adding to the scientific knowledge about animal welfare in all phases of pork production. In January 2002, the National Pork Board adopted a position statement on animal welfare guidelines for pork producers:

"Animal welfare guidelines developed without a sound scientific basis puts the welfare of the animal and the sustainability of the producer's operation at risk. Therefore, the National Pork Board continues to support sound science as the only basis for animal welfare guideline decision-making." National Pork Board, 2002

Links to the Documentation

Program Elements To prepare for and conduct a SWAP assessment of your operation
SWAP, Record Keeping, Animal Observations, Facilities, Assessment Table and Calculations
Site Definition
Table 1: Number of individually housed or large-group housed pigs to be assessed per site
Table 2: Number of pens to be assessed per site Introduction
  • Regulatory Aspects of Animal Welfare
    U.S. Pork Producer Code of Practice
CWP #1 : Herd Health and Nutrition
  • 1.1 Valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)
    1.2 Herd Health Program
    1.3 Medication and Treatment Programs
    1.4 Mortality
    1.5 Pigs Euthanized
    1.6 Nutritional Program
CWP #2: Caretaker Training
  • 2.1 Training Program
    2.2. Career Development
CWP #3: Animal Observation
  • 3.1 Daily Observation
    3.2 Animal Evaluation
    3.3 Swine Behaviour
    3.4 Social Interaction
CWP #4: Body Condition Score CWP #5: Euthanasia
  • 5.1 Timeliness
    5.2 Methods
    5.3 Functional Equipment
CWP #6: Handling and Movement
  • 6.1 Proper Handling
    6.2 Facility Considerations
    6.3 Equipment
CWP #7: Facilities
  • 7.1 Ventilation
    7.2 Heating and Cooling
    7.3 Physical Space to Accommodate the Body
    7.4 Pen Maintenance
    7.5 Feeder Space
    7.6 Water Availability
    7.7 Hospital Pen
CWP #8: Emergency Support
  • 8.1 Emergency Support System
    8.2 Written Action Plan
CWP #9: Continuing Assessment and Education
  • 9.1 Assessment Schedule

Daily Observation Log for Pigs on Farm

Calculation Sheet to help complete the Assessment Table and Part II

SWAP Gilts, Sows, Boars & Neonatal Piglets Assessment Table and Part II

SWAP Nursery & Finisher Pigs Assessment Table and Part II Referenced Publications:

Download full version of SWAP manual

Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Manual

Swine Care Handbook

On Farm Euthanasia of Swine-Options for the Producer

Livestock Weather Safety Index
To go to the NPB SWAP home page Click Here

Source: National Pork Board - September 2003