Real welfare suspends recording of mild body marks

Following a major review of Real Welfare that started in September, some more changes have been proposed after a second open meeting meeting attended by people from across the industry covering producers, vets, processors and retailers.

The new recommendations are to suspend the requirement to measure mild marks on both the body and tails on the grounds that the information return was too small for the effort required and the difficulty in detecting mild marks among dirty or coloured pigs made the quality of data questionable.

Although the requirement to measure these has been suspended, producers and vets who see value in continuing to do so can continue to submit data, in the same way that some are continuing to submit environmental enrichment data.

The environmental enrichment measure has already been suspended and a number of alternative ways of assessing it will be drawn up and presented in December. Depending on what emerges from that work, any promising design will then go out for field trials to determine its effectiveness.

The recommendations from the meeting were submitted for consideration by the BPEX board of directors, as the owners of the protocol.

The Red Tractor Pigs Technical Advisory Committee also considered the recommendations, to make sure that they considered the changed Real Welfare protocol to still be robust and valuable. Both the BPEX Board and Red Tractor Pigs TAC accepted the recommendations and the changes to the protocol will come into effect on November 14.

Red Tractor Pigs chairman Mike Sheldon, who chaired the review meeting, said that the meeting in December will allow the the push to make any necessary changes to Real Welfare to continue.

“New to the agenda will be a review of the sampling process for each of the measures, to see if we can make things simpler and more practicable,” he added. “We’ll also be making progress on redesigning the way in which we assess environmental enrichment.”

BPEX chairman Stewart Houston said that the initiative was trying to do something difficult that has never been done before.

“We have always said, and will continue to say, that we will keep whatever works well in the protocol and change the things that don’t work so well in order that they do,” he added.

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said NPA producer group members had voted unanimously, in favour of continuing with Real Welfare audits.

“They acknowledged there were significant problems which must be rectified, but were clear that the overall concept was correct,” he said.

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