An update on the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway

Stewart Houston, who chairs the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway Group, which developing a new policy to improve the national herd’s health and welfare, gives an update on progress

We promised to keep you up to date with the development of the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway, so here we go!

We’ve just about completed the WHAT we need in the Pathway, so the next step is working with Defra colleagues on HOW we deliver it.

We’ve had a great group of representatives from AHDB, NPA, British Pig Association (BPA) and the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) working on this since March, all meeting by Zoom every couple of weeks to discuss papers prepared by sub-groups on modules arising out of the workshop.

These range from disease prevention, including a system of scoring each unit’s potential for keeping disease out, and disease reduction to the skills we’ll need to improve and maintain the health of our national pig herd.

We’ve looked at how we can get buy-in from small scale producers, how we can encourage professional recognition and how we can communicate the Pathway to all who are involved in pig production.

Pig World will be our campaign leader, with regular updates on the progress of the Pathway, and we are also developing the Good Pig App so all the information that producers need can be found in the one place.

Delivery of the Pathway will begin in earnest in April 2022, which does not seem that far away when you think about the amount of work there is to do on funding and delivery.

Defra colleagues are working hard on what funding might look like and we’re looking at three separate grant streams – one focused on the disease aspects of the Pathway, one supporting welfare changes, and the last on productivity.

Of course, this is not all about money, it’s about working together towards a common goal that benefits everyone, ie a healthy English pig herd (we’re working with Scottish colleagues, too).

We all know that improved productivity will come as a result of improved health, as will environmental and welfare benefits, together with reductions in the need for antibiotics. We’ll also have to compete in export markets where reputation makes a big difference.

In the meantime, we want to ‘sense check’ our work through presentations to the NPA Pig Industry Group, the AHDB Pork Board, PVS, the Pig Health and Welfare Council and the BPA executive.

In an ideal world, the final ‘Straw Man’ document would have been examined by a wider audience at a national workshop or conference, but that’s unlikely to happen, so we’re trying to think of innovative ways to get views and buy-in from grass roots pig farmers and their allied industry colleagues.

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