Animal welfare is moving up the agenda

So the Pig and Poultry Fair is over for another couple of years and it was good to feel the general vibe within the industry – not overly buoyant, but not too cautious, either.

Many people are looking forward to what is going to happen over the next few years, including their own investments on farm and the impacts that Brexit will have on the whole sector and their own pigs.

Welfare is certainly going to be a priority within the UK Government plan, and it is moving up the agenda in Europe and around the World, too. How are we going to maintain our standing and defend our position?

The new Welfare Codes within the consultation earlier this year were
 a sight of what the Government has in store, and we’ll need to make use of every method at our disposal to mark ourselves out. Whether that is through the systems and assurance schemes in their current form, or following a reinvigoration, time will tell.

As we continue to reduce the use of antibiotics, and we have made huge strides so far, there will need to be continued innovation in genetics, environmental controls, vaccines, water additives, and nutritional fine tuning, to name but a few.

Many examples of the current trends in these areas were visible at the Fair and there will be more advances in the years ahead. Some will be a flop and we will laugh about them eventually. Others
 will revolutionise our pig and pork production and we will ask ourselves why we hadn’t thought of them before. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the pig sector and we should all look forward to what the future holds.

One thing for certain is that there will be continued scrutiny of what we do and how we do it. Upcoming challenges include vices and tail biting, which is a really complicated issue to convey to members of the public and politicians alike.

If the answers were simple, such as using straw to stop tail docking, then we would be ahead of the curve. Anyone who has experienced an outbreak of tail biting in a straw yard would be more than ready to share their experiences of the chaos and poor welfare that can result.

We will certainly have to prove the requirement for us to carry out procedures like tail docking, and this is something that the public will want to happen and for it to be auditable on their behalf.

Equally, the last few weeks have been a reminder that welfare on farm is under public scrutiny – activist groups out there will go to a lot of effort to undermine our industry.

No one can stop everything for sure, but an excellent start is to follow the NPA Tidy Units protocol 
– make sure you have a copy prominently displayed on your farm.

Duncan Berkshire is one of the lead vets within the five-vet pig team at Bishopton Veterinary Group, based in Yorkshire

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