Weekly Outlook: Sow Housing Changes Discussed in New Zealand and UK

ANALYSIS - The welfare of sows has been in the news this week after New Zealand and the UK recognised the need to move away from current housing systems used during the pregnancy and farrowing stages.
calendar icon 7 December 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

New Zealand announced on Thursday that a ban is now in place on the use of sow stalls during pregnancy.

"After 3 December, all people responsible for the welfare of pigs must ensure that mated sows and gilts are not confined in stalls during pregnancy. The use of mating stalls for service is permitted, for no longer than 1 week," said Dean Baigent, Director of Compliance at the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries.

In the UK, the Government’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) released a new report that favours a move towards free farrowing systems and away from farrowing crates.

Although the report says that these systems should be the aim, it also says that their commercial development is not yet sufficiently advanced to recommend compulsory replacement of farrowing crates.

The report was welcomed by the National Pig Association for containing sound common sense.

In particular the NPA welcomed the report’s recognition of attempts already being made by pig farmers to develop and trial workable free-farrowing systems. And it applauded the committee’s conclusion that future developments must be science-led and must be commercially viable.

“It could prove a useful roadmap for the nation’s pig farmers as they strive continually to improve the internationally-recognised high-welfare credentials of the British pig industry,” said the NPA.

In market news, BRF has announced it is to acquire Dutch company Eclipse Holding Cooperatief, which operates the Argentinian hog business Campo Austral, for $85 million.

Campo Austral has fully integrated hog business operations in Argentina, including the cold cuts market.

In disease news, Russia has reported five new outbreaks of African Swine Fever in backyard pigs and wild boar. ASF has also been reported in Latvia, where 18 wild boar were found to be infected.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) could worsen in the US over the winter of 2015/16, said Joel Harris from Harrisvaccines, speaking to ThePigSite.

"The concern is that since we have such a replacement rate of sows, going into this winter almost half of the sows in the US will have a lower or no immunity to PED," Mr Harris said.

"Although we may not see as big of an outbreak as the initial one in 2013, I think going forward we will see these blips of more cases confirmed and some losses."

However, Mr Harris did say that the industry has done a great job working together to keep PED at bay, with increased biosecurity, truck washing and animal welfare measures playing a big part.

"Vaccination is a tool that's been successful in a lot of cases; producers and veterinarians are looking at what their options are going into the winter".

In other disease news, researchers from Iowa State University, US, have pinpointed a mystery virus that causes tremors in piglets.

The virus, which comes from a family known as ‘pestiviruses,’ infects young pigs and can cause them to shake involuntarily.

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