Using social media to study pig welfare in Sweden

It was great to see so many people taking an interest in our study tour to Sweden via social media.

The group was there to look at free farrowing systems and how the Swedes are managing to avoid regular tail docking.
I have to admit I’m not into all this electronic media, probably as the day job now involves so many hours sitting in front of a screen. However, if the study tour gained attention from pig producers unable to attend in person, that’s got to be a good thing.

It seems that more than 20 questions and comments came from nine separate individuals during the tour. Questions were answered in real time and ranged from people wanting to know about stocking rates, whether pigs were on straw or slats, welfare standards and whether they were delivered consistently, to herd parity structure, labelling systems and whether premiums are paid for the pigs – and so much more!

Personally, it is the pictures I like! They can tell you so much if taken well. It’s apparent that in Sweden they make solid floors with very narrow slatted dunging areas work well. Most noticeable from the pictures are the long tails, the very dry and clean floors and the light sprinkling of short straw on the floors.

“It’s apparent that in Sweden they make solid floors with very narrow slatted dunging areas that work well”

At various European IPPC meetings I’ve attended, they refer to ‘straw litter’, and looking at the pictures, it’s definitely ‘litter’ rather than bedding (think about the trail left when you transport a bale down the yard). Thus we have to be aware of interpretation, especially when it comes to claims for different production systems. I will share an update and explanation of how they deal with the straw once it finds its way down the slats with you later on!

Back to the study tours. AHDB Pork has been successfully running these for a number of years now and they are proving to be a perfect way to demonstrate ideas and practices first hand in commercial situations. While most involve overseas travel, this is not always the case. One group went to Scotland (may soon be classed as international travel!), to look at poultry and salmon farming businesses to see how these farmers perform tasks that also exist in pig farming. Seeing how others tackle routine tasks is enormously helpful, but sometimes it’s the small snippets that can be as valuable as the big ticket items.

Tours are often organised around a topic or theme, such as welfare in Sweden, vaccination in Scotland or ammonia reduction in Denmark. If there is something you are interested in, speak to your KE manager or email Rachel.Adamson@ahdb.org.uk

And if it’s not easy for you to get away from farm, then social media might be for you. If you’re like me, you’ll certainly enjoy the pictures! Check out @ahdb_pork

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