Real Welfare sample sizes will remain unchanged

Real Welfare sample sizes have been recommended to remain unchanged following the latest meeting of the review committee.

Those on the committee, including producers, vets, the NPA and BPEX, recommended maintaining the current requirement to sample up to 900 pigs/year, subject to confirmation that this will have a minimal effect on accuracy, as expected.

The question arose because of a change to the protocols in November 2013 when the requirement to score mild body lesions was suspended.

This was the third meeting of the review committee, which is charged with developing the Real Welfare assessment protocols to make them more acceptable and practical, while maintaining accuracy as a useful farm management tool.

“The practicalities of the sampling strategy will be streamlined, making it easier to do the assessment, while maintaining current provisions for small farms and batch finishers,” Red Tractor pigs chairman Mike Sheldon said. “As recommended at the previous review meeting, the assessment of mild body marks and mild tail lesions will remain optional.”

The Pig Veterinary Society agreed to co-ordinate the development of guidelines for an overall farm finisher welfare assessment. Its aim is to encompass the farm vet’s overall judgement of the welfare of all finishers on farm, including pigs outside the sample assessed for Real Welfare, such as those in hospital pens. It’s expected that this will be included in the existing Veterinary Health Plan.

The requirement to collect information on the use of environmental enrichment remains optional for the time being. However, a working group will revisit the challenge of collecting objective, meaningful data that assesses pigs’ use of enrichment. Recording the types of enrichment that are present in the pens continues to be required.

The review committee also recommended that the collection of additional information, such as ventilation systems and herd genetics, should be streamlined to reduce box ticking and duplication.

The next steps are for the recommendations to be reviewed and approved by the BPEX board and Red Tractor Technical Advisory Committee. Systems for collecting and recording the information and guidance on the revised protocols will need to be updated and the new requirements are likely to be in place by the end of February.

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