Factors responsible for good welfare

calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 9 minute read

Quality of the management

As already stated this is crucial. People should be selected for their standard of stockmanship which includes a caring nature and ability to establish empathy with their pigs. Leadership on the pig farm starts with the manager motivating their staff. They must ensure that all the disciplines required on the farm are achieved. Attention to detail and the monitoring of daily routines are vital.

Education and understanding

There should be an ongoing process of education as part of the management system. Young people entering the farm should be trained by more experienced stock people and in particular to recognise what is normal and abnormal. To do this requires a recognised training programme on the farm that is continually reinforced.


Each day a detailed examination of all the pigs on the farm should be carried out. Sick animals should be identified and procedures adopted to ensure that they are comfortable and not victims of aggression from other pigs. This may require movement to a hospital pen. Whilst this statement may seem simple, nevertheless it is most important. A typical example would be the failure to identify a tail bitten pig. The consequences of this are considerable, not only for the welfare of the pig but also because excessive tail damage invariably results in abscesses of the spine and a condemned carcass. It is strongly recommended that these formats are used daily by each person responsible for a section or part of the farm and for the supervision of trainees.

The environment


Pigs should be maintained within their thermo-neutral zones at their comfort level. Guidelines for different ages of pigs are given in Fig.16-7

Even with these guidelines the pigs may not be comfortable. You can assess this by their lying patterns either huddled together or separated. Past experiences have shown that the failure to maintain a stable comfortable temperature is one of the most important trigger factors to the development of disease. This is particularly so in post-weaning diarrhoea and respiratory disease.


Relative humidity should be maintained between 60 and 80%.


This should be maintained at a controlled level so the pigs remain within their thermo-neutral zone and to ensure toxic gases are adequately removed. However, a light draught e.g. an increase in air movement from 0.15m/sec to 0.5m/sec can lift the lower critical temperature (LCT) by 4ºC (7ºF) or more. Mechanically ventilated systems must have an alarm to identify when a failure occurs and have provision for alternative means of ventilation under these circumstances. Alarm systems should be tested at least every seven days, and a backup system should be available when electricity supplies fail. Losses of 500-800 pigs have been experienced where such systems fail.


Pigs should not be kept in darkness but have sufficient light to satisfy their behavioural and physiological needs. The period of light should be at least that of natural light. Sufficient light should also be available to allow adequate daily inspections. Adequate light has an important role in maximising reproductive efficiency as discussed in chapter 5.

The mixing of pigs

Whenever pigs are mixed there are varying degrees of fighting and trauma. This is a constant problem on most pig farms. The adverse effects on growth are often unrecognised but growth rates may be reduced by as much as a week, and welfare aspects must also be considered. The use of injectible sedatives such as stresnil and the use of industrial scent sprays at the time of mixing help to reduce fighting. Reducing the light intensity for 24 hours after mixing also helps.

Stocking densities

It is important to work within recognised and accepted standards for various ages and weights of pigs. This is to ensure optimum growth rates, good welfare and a low level of disease and mortality. The total square feet or metres of accommodation required for growing and finishing pigs needs to be determined from the mating programme, farrowing rates, litter sizes and pigs weaned. This is needed to ensure adequate capacity to maximise production. Fig.16-1 gives stocking density levels that would provide acceptable welfare conditions.

Floor and wall surfaces

The floors should be free from projections, well maintained, easily cleaned and if solid with good drainage towards the exterior of the pen. Slats should be well maintained and of a suitable size for the age of the pig to prevent trauma and disease. (Fig.16-2). Where bedding is used there should be provision for dry lying areas. All solid floors should be well insulated.

The walls and partitions should be constructed and maintained so that there no sharp edges or protrusions likely to cause injury or distress. All surfaces should be capable of being cleaned and disinfected.

Automatic equipment

This should be thoroughly inspected on a daily basis. Where breakdowns occur provision should be made to ensure that the welfare of the pigs is not compromised.

Food and water

Food should be presented in a manner that allows all pigs to eat without distress or fear. Feed hoppers or dispensers should be examined daily for failure of supply. This is to ensure any automatic delivery systems are functional and are working efficiently. Pigs should be fed at least once a day. If fed only once a day all the pigs in a group should have access to food at the same time. Guidelines for trough space are given in Fig.16-3, and water flow rates and drinker ratios in Fig.16-4 though to Fig.16-6.

All pigs should have an adequate supply of fresh clean water daily. There must be a sufficient number of accessible drinkers per pen for every pig to drink readily, including the underprivileged pigs at the bottom of the pecking order. Every drinker should be checked daily to ensure adequate flow rate. All header tanks should have a lid to prevent contamination by debris, dust and vermin. This also helps to prevent pipework blockages. If necessary pipes should be insulated to prevent freezing. An inadequate flow rate from partially blocked drinkers is one of the commonest management faults found in commercial piggeries. As well as being a welfare issue water shortage leads to poor productivity and predisposes to disease. This is particularly serious when single nipple drinkers with poor flow rates are incorporated into farrowing pens. This results in low milk yield, loss of appetite and sow condition and poor piglet growth. It is a wise precaution to have a single tap system on the water line over the sow's trough which can be turned on twice a day to let the sow have a good drink. The trough must of course be watertight to prevent wet floors, a common predisposition to mastitis and piglet diarrhoea. A single space hopper with an integral nipple drinker should not be the only source of water to a pen of growing pigs.

Housing systems

Housing systems for pigs from birth to weaning and for lactating and weaned sows should be used on an all-in all-out basis, keeping pigs of similar age within a common environment. There should be provision for the cleaning and disinfection of each section between each batch of pigs. This is a major component in disease control and hence good welfare. The adoption of this principle on a number of breeding finishing farms has, together with other management methods resulted in significant improvements in feed efficiency (up to 0.4) and improved daily liveweight gains (up to 120g). Segregating one age group of pigs from another is now the most important aspect of disease control.

Electrical installations

These must not be accessible to pigs and should be correctly earthed with trip out switches. They should be protected against damage and contamination by water during cleaning and disinfection.

Disease and welfare

Hospital pens

There must be adequate provision to cope with the number of sick pigs that have to be moved from their normal environment during periods of illness and treatment. Aspects of this are discussed in detail in 'The management and treatment of the sick pig'.

Any ill pig that cannot fend for itself must be moved immediately to a hospital pen e.g. tail bitten, severely lame, acutely ill etc.

The failure to provide adequate well managed hospital pens is a cause of serious economic loss on many farms. The experiences on one large farm are worthy of consideration. No ill pig was ever treated in its pen but moved to one of a series of small hospital pens. The owner often remarked that many of the pigs reached slaughter weight before their contemporaries - a rather sobering thought.

Vice (abnormal behaviour)

All efforts should be made to ensure the environment satisfies the pig's physiological and behavioural needs. This is particularly important in the prevention of tail biting and other behavioural disorders. Vice is the traditional term used by stockpeople, but it is now discouraged by welfare and behaviour authorities who use the term abnormal behaviour.


Mutilations include nose-ringing of sows kept outdoors, tattooing, ear tagging or notching, tail docking, tooth clipping, castration and boar tusk removal. It is accepted that some of these procedures are necessary in some intensive environments to avoid behavioural problems but you should consider carefully whether it is necessary in your pig farm to carry out each of these. For example, modern genetically-improved pigs now reach slaughter weight before they are sexually mature so that castration is less important to reduce boar taint. Castration has virtually ceased in the UK and other countries may follow. The procedures that you deem necessary on your pig farm should be carried out by well-trained operators, at the correct age, and in a manner that minimises pain and distress to the animal. Clipping the eye teeth and tail docking should be carried out within seven days of birth, preferably under three days. Castration should also be carried out under three weeks of age, preferably under one week. All equipment should be well maintained and kept clean and disinfected. Older pigs should not be castrated or tail docked without a local anaesthetic and where necessary by a veterinarian.

More Structured content

View all

Knowledge Centre

calendar icon 19 February 2021
clock icon 1 minute read


calendar icon 11 December 2018
clock icon 1 minute read

Urinary system

calendar icon 1 December 2018
clock icon 1 minute read
© 2000 - 2022 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.