Study examines welfare protocol between two pig production systems

MEXICO - A recent study was conducted which investigated the Welfare Quality protocols of pig production in medium-scale, rustic pig farms and commercial, technified pig farms to test the validity of animal welfare indicators
calendar icon 21 September 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

The study was completed by researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Department of Ethology, Wildlife and Laboratory Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics. Seven rustic farms and six technified production sytems were studied across four states in Central Mexico.

Types of production systems

Rustic production units

  • 10-50 breeding sows per unit
  • 100-500 animals in production
  • Commercial focus, however, a small portion of production reserved to complement the family diet and for financial security
  • Units contained other species including poultry, rabbits, cows and sheep
  • Families (owners or employees) occupied the production units; very few workers hired
  • Diet consisted primarily of forage and regional oilseeds; minimal use of commercial feeds
  • Large variation in design of shelter and materials used
  • Sows kept in pens in service, gestation and maternity areas
  • All farms had a person in charge

Technified production units

  • 100-500 breeding sows per unit
  • 1000-5000 animals in production
  • Commercial focus, with only one producers incorporating animals into their family's diet
  • Most units were separate from the households of the producers and/or workers
  • Only one producer kept sheep in addition to pigs
  • All farms had hired workers for animal care
  • Maize, sorghum, and aromatic herbs were grown in the area close to the production units to be sold locally or exported
  • Nutritionally balanced feed either purchased commercially or prepared by producers was used
  • Units had nearly identical designs
  • All sows housed in commercial pens designed for the area, whether service, gestation or maternity
  • All farms had a person in charge


  • Animal welfare indicators were evaluated according to the Welfare Quality protocols for each type of animal, ie, sows and piglets on farms (maternity), farm pigs (fattening) and for pigs at slaughter
  • The four principles governing the Welfare Quality were:
    • Good feeding.
    • Good housing.
    • Good health.
    • Expression of natural behaviour.

The above principles were measured against the criteria of:

  • Absence of prolonged hunger.
  • Absence of prolonged thirst.
  • Comfort at rest.
  • Thermal comfort.
  • Ease of movement.
  • Absence of wounds.
  • Absence of diseases.
  • Absence of pain induced by management producers.
  • Expression of social behaviours.
  • Expression of other behaviours.
  • Good human-animal relationship.
  • Positive emotional states.

These were evaluated systematically in a representative sample of pigs in each production unit. Farms were given scores based on how each animal scored. A score of more than 20 was deemed as being "acceptable", more than 55 was deemed as being "enhanced" and more than 80 was deemed as "excellent".



Rustic and technified production systems were found to be nearly equal in terms of feeding, with rustic units scoring nearly 80 and technified scoring 80.


Rustic systems scored slightly higher than technified, with rustic deemed as being enhanced, while technified was in the range of being acceptable.


In terms of health, both rustic and technified systems scored in the acceptable range, with rustic scoring higher than technified.


Rustic scored in the excellent range in behaviour, while technified systems scored in the enhanced range.

To read the full study, click here

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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