Upping the gears on a Pathway towards better pig health and welfare

Stewart Houston, chairs the Pig Pathway Project Group (PPPG) and is also chairman of the Red Tractor pork board and a non-executive member of Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Board, discusses how the Pig Pathway is progressing.

I just get the feeling that we are upping a gear after further Ministerial input into our work progressing the Pig Pathway.

As you know, I chair the Pig Pathway Project Group (PPPG) developing what we intend to be a holistic approach to improving the health and welfare of our pig herd, backed by funding under the new agricultural policy.

Not only do we have all of our Defra team back, but it’s been enhanced by additions, not the least of which is specialist comms support at last. Work has started on an engagement plan to keep industry appraised of developments and gain widespread support for the direction of travel.

I’m hoping that the Government’s exit plan from the current COVID restrictions will allow us to hold the Defra Workshop for all farmed species that we’d intended to have last March as part of that engagement. I’ll suggest to the group that we consider a pig sector Stoneleigh Mark II to test the work we’ve done to date.

Stewart Houston

Stewart Houston

We’re developing a series of indicative timelines throughout 2020 to deliver the policy phases of the Pathway delivery. There’s no doubt in my mind that the massive amount of work completed by the PPPG will help achieve those milestones and keep us on track to begin delivery of the Pathway in the spring of 2022.

A lot of work is already happening behind the scenes on the policy areas around the Pathway, including the business case and with Bristol University, who will help us with the payment by results section. We’ll be looking for a mixed range of farmers who can help with the initial survey.

Further work has continued on the other aspects of welfare in the programme, with some of the other sectors looking at how they might take lessons from our Welfare Outcomes scheme.

Defra has been working with the Pig Veterinary Society and Pig Health and Welfare Council to see how we can build up data from the vet visit. We’ve coupled that work with input from the data sub-group of Defra’s multi-species Livestock Information Service (LIS), which has looked at the implications of holding and, particularly, sharing data.

I know this has the potential to be a thorny subject with farmers, but we need accurate and up to date data to make the Pathway tick.

In the meantime, we have a group developing a report on how we can improve and make more efficient the cleansing and disinfection of livestock transport, and another looking at the difficult subject of how we engage the ‘hard to reach’ farmers.

There will be much more to report soon.

This article was taken from the April Issue of Pig World magazine, which you can subscribe to here.

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