Towards a baseline assessment of organic pig welfare
Organic farming is based on the premise that animal welfare is safeguarded primarily through good management; only when this fails are veterinary medicines used to intervene. As this premise is frequently quoted in marketing strategies, there is a need to assess the efficacy of this approach to reassure consumers. To move towards this assessment, a survey was conducted between August 1999 and April 2002 on nine organic pig farms located predominantly in the South West of England. This combined direct measurements of animals and facilities with structured questions to staff. The mean herd size (± standard error of mean) was 212 ± 74 sows, with all progeny being reared outdoors from farrowing to finish. The herds had been in existence for an average of 37 ± 7.0 months. Mange and lice were the highest-ranking current health concerns, and post-mortem report of endoparasitism was the highest-ranking historical health concern chosen by producers from a list pre-written by the experimenters. The main welfare issues reported by the primary stockperson were related to keeping stock clean and dry during periods of high rainfall, managing porcine dermatitis and nephropathy syndrome (PDNS) and postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) within their herd, and recruiting and retaining good quality personnel. Facility assessment indicated good living conditions, with the exception of some wet paddocks during winter. Sow condition scores were not significantly different from accepted target values during pregnancy, at farrowing, or at weaning. Levels of lameness, skin damage and cleanliness did not cause concern in any class of stock.
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