Welfare Outcomes Project Means More Time on Vet Visits

23 August 2012, at 12:34pm

UK - Many people may be aware that Red Tractor, and probably other assurance organisations in England and Wales, plan to adopt some of the scoring and measurements taken on farm during the Real Welfare Outcomes Project pilot studies.

In practice this will require us to select various pens of pigs, both dry sows and finishers, and measure certain criteria (lameness, tail lesions, body lesions, hospitalisation, enrichment use) in this selected sub-population.

It is estimated, depending on farm type and layout, that this procedure may take between 20 and 45 minutes on each farm. On the pilot studies in which we have been involved, only a few farms fell into the shortest time period.

Whilst this amount of time may not seem considerable within a five or six hour visit to a large farrow-to-finish operation, it is obviously a large percentage of the time on smaller farms and on units belonging to multi-site operations.

The proposal is that these welfare assessments will be conducted during or at the end of your routine veterinary quarterly visit and that critically the pig producer will pay for the increased time required for the visit.

If the time on farm is not increased, this could detract from the primary focus of our input which is to improve health, welfare and productivity on the unit and consequently its financial efficiency.

The Real Welfare Outcomes Project and its incorporation into Red Tractor has been welcomed by many larger producers, largely due to its potential political advantages. By taking the initiative now we may be able to prevent the implementation by the EU of similar, but possibly more onerous, welfare inspections in the future. Its implications in terms of costs and veterinary time need to be understood by all producers and planned for accordingly.