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UK pig sector continues to achieve high welfare scores - AHDB data

The AHDB's Real Welfare scheme is demonstrating best practices in the pig industry and is achieving continued improvements in pig welfare.

26 January 2021, at 6:53am

AHDB’s Real Welfare scheme is unique in the type of data it collects and the degree to which it represents practices across the industry. Last year’s data shows that the vast majority of pig farms continue to have good levels of welfare and the sector as a whole shows continuous improvements are being made.

More than 13 million pigs have been individually assessed by specially trained vets to provide this credible and benchmarked level of welfare; this has created the biggest database of its kind anywhere in the world.

The data, published in a new report, show that on average, all the welfare outcomes measured, bar one, have shown improvements since the scheme was introduced in 2013.

The data also confirm a slightly increasing trend for the enrichment use and that where welfare issues are found during an assessment, they are localised and not uniform across a farm. The welfare measure with the lowest recorded prevalence was pigs requiring hospitalisation (0.05 percent of pigs), and the measure with the highest prevalence was severe body marks (0.18 percent of pigs).

Dr Mandy Nevel, AHDB Head of Animal Health and Welfare, said: “This assessment of Real Welfare outcomes shows the scheme provides a positive impact, especially in providing good support to decrease lameness, severe body marks and improve hospital pen management.

“It also continues to build on the partnership between farmers and veterinary surgeons, providing an excellent basis from which to drive, and evidence, the British pig industry’s commitment and achievements in continuous improvement in pig welfare.”

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Angela Christison, AHDB Sector Strategy Director (Pork), added: “These results show by acting in unison to continue to drive up standards, we can make real progress across the board.”

Real Welfare assessments are a requirement of Red Tractor and Quality Standard Meat farm assurance schemes. Through the scheme, vets routinely assess four welfare measures on pigs over 50 kg. The fifth measure, environmental enrichment, is optional, although the type of enrichment found in pens must be recorded. The five welfare measures are:

  • Hospital pigs (pigs that would benefit from removal to a hospital pen)
  • Lameness
  • Tail damage
  • Body marks
  • Environmental enrichment use

For a more in-depth look at the latest data, AHDB has published an update report for 2018–20 which can be downloaded from the AHDB website.