Healthy pig = Better product
The livelihood of Australian pig farmers is totally dependent on producing a high quality product. A high quality pork product requires a healthy pig and excellence in animal care. Pig farmers understand better than anyone the crucial importance of a high standard of care for each and every animal on their farm.
Australia's animal welfare regulations are specifically designed to care for and protect the welfare of our pigs. Australia is the one of the few countries in the world where the welfare of pigs is protected by a Model Code of Practice. The Code of Practice was developed along with vets, regulators and welfare groups and approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial council in 2007. The code is enforceable by law, policed by state authorities and backed by the threat of prosecution and severe penalties, including jail terms. The Code of Practice has not been enforced in Tasmania.
Different methods of housing
Pigs are extremely sensitive to environmental extremes, including sunlight, wind chill, and persistent hot or cold temperatures. Pigs farmed in Australia are at their healthiest at temperatures in the upper-mid twenties (although piglets prefer a little more warmth). This means that most pigs in Australia are housed indoors in sheds or shelters, where farmers can best manage the temperature. There is also a growing number of free range or outdoor farms, most of which can be found where there is a stable climate.
Going beyond the regulations
In recognition of growing community concerns about the welfare of sows, the Australian Pork industry has taken the unique step of committing to a phase out of gestation stalls. In November 2010, APL delegates overwhelmingly endorsed two resolutions:
- That Australian pork producers commit to pursuing the voluntary phasing out of the use of gestation stalls by 2017.
- That Australian pork producers recognise the welfare benefits of gestation stalls, the cost of change and the need for research, investment and off-sets to support the voluntary commitment to change.
“Gestation Stall Free” has been defined as:
“Sows and gilts should be kept in loose housing from five days after service until one week before farrowing, where service refers to the last mating. In loose (group) housing, sow and gilts – either singularly or in groups - have freedom of movement i.e. they can turn around and extend their limbs. The housing of one or more animals must meet the Model Code for the Welfare of Pigs (2007) space allowance requirements. Where a pen is used to confine a pig individually during gestation (up to 1 week prior to farrowing), it must meet the definition of loose housing, i.e. the animal must be able to have freedom of movement, to turn around and extend its limbs.”
- Hospital/Special Care Stalls used to individually house pigs temporarily to allow sufficient time to provide special care for sickness, injury, medications and other health treatments under veterinary advice, or under special care by a competent stockperson.
- Feeding stalls used to confine an individual pig for feeding and/or animal husbandry reasons, such as vaccination, pregnancy confirmation etc for a time of up to 3 hours in any one day.
Systems in which individual sows are confined individually during gestation, but which meet the definition of loose housing, include:
- Free access pens, which contain individual feeding accommodation, but which allow the individual pig to go in and out at will.
- Electronic sow feeding systems, which contain individual feeding accommodation, but which allow the individual pig to go in and out at will.
The average sow weighs over 250 kg - equivalent to 3 standard fridges. During the short and chaotic period new piglets are suckling, they are extremely vulnerable to being crushed to death by their mother. The temporary use of farrowing crates plays a crucial role in protecting piglets from being crushed.