RSPCA seeks help with free-farrowing standards

The RSPCA is looking for help from producers with freedom farrowing systems to help it to draw-up specific requirements for indoor loose (free) farrowing accommodation.

The organisation’s farm animals department, which develops the standards, has been considering the need for more detailed standards in relation to indoor free farrowing for a number of years, including through discussion with the RSPCA Pig Standards Working Group, where all potential amendments are discussed.

From the beginning of this year, the RSPCA welfare standards, applied by all Freedom Food pig members, require farrowing accommodation that allows the sow to turn around freely at all times. The next version of the standards, due for publication later in 2014, will provide additional information as to how much room is required for a sow to turn around and also highlight in an information box that “In addition to turning around, space is also required for increased activity, nursing, and separate excretion and feeding areas.”

The RSPCA said a number of articles had appeared recently in the pig press in relation to loose farrowing and the Freedom Food scheme and it wanted to clarify, that neither the RSPCA or Freedom Food “approved” equipment for freedom farrowing.

“Freedom Food will approve a farm, including the use of any equipment in-situ, following a complete and thorough assessment of the farm as a whole,” the RSPCA’s pig welfare expert, Kate Parkes, said, “but the farm must meet all of the RSPCA welfare standards for pigs in order to gain Freedom Food approval.”

Specific requirements in relation to indoor loose (free) farrowing are soon to be drafted for inclusion in the standards in the near future, and the RSPCA’s farm animal department is keen to get the help, advice and experience of producers that already have an indoor free-farrowing system, or are thinking about installing one, to help shape the new standards. It can be contacted by email via: farm-animals@rspca.org.uk

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