Each year, readers of National Hog Farmer receive two special print editions that take a look at key challenges facing pork producers. These special editions, known as the Blueprint Series for Top Managers, serve as an invaluable reference issue for our readers. Each issue is written by a team of leading experts, from animal scientists and swine veterinarians to swine nutritionists and agricultural engineers, sharing a wealth of knowledge about each topic being covered....More
A study at the University of Illinois looking at standard gestation stalls, turn-around stalls and group-pen housing combinations found that the type of stall a pregnant sow is housed in for the first 30 days of gestation or its entire gestational period can impact its immune status, behavior and litter performance....More
One of the greatest concerns when sows are housed in groups is the incidence of aggression. This is somewhat surprising, given that sows in the wild live fairly harmoniously in groups. The reason for this discrepancy between commercial and wild pigs is that sows in the wild essentially never form new groups and their feed resources are generally scattered throughout their environment, greatly reducing competition among individuals....More
Group-housing systems allow sows freedom to: (1) move around and explore their environment, (2) perform normal positive and negative social interactions with their pen-mates, (3) choose an area for urination and defecation, and (4) choose an area for sleeping....More
Maintaining optimal sow body condition is an important strategy to maximize animal well-being and sow lifetime productivity. Most commercial producers feed gestating sows based on a visual (subjective) measure of body condition. However, the majority of barn workers, farm managers and service people are not highly trained in estimating body composition....More
When considering a change to group housing, the top-of-mind question for producers is: Can we reasonably expect to make this change without depressing sow performance and increasing our cost of production? This is a very difficult question to answer. Taking a very broad view of the topic, reviews of scientific studies and anecdotal reports in general suggest that there are no clear, repeatable advantages or disadvantages in sow performance when comparing group housing with individual stalls....More
As the sow housing conversion debate continues across Canada, the Prairie Swine Centre along with the University of Manitoba have launched a national sow housing conversion project to help producers find the most cost effective and beneficial housing for their sows by utilizing a model produced at the University of Manitoba. The model uses the physical attributes of the current barn along with the producer’s plans for the future to develop the best cost barn conversion plan....More
The United States is not the only country wrestling with issues, such as use of both antibiotics in livestock production, and gestation stalls. This week Scott Hurd, DVM, associate professor and director of the Food Risk Modeling and Policy Laboratory at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, makes some valid points about the “rest of the story” after Denmark banned preventive and growth-promoting antibiotics for pigs in 2000. “In over 20 years of food safety research, I have seen quite a few antibiotic-free (ABF) animals, including the famous pigs in Denmark,” he writes in his “Hurd Health” blog. “While working in the processing plant, I could often tell when ABF pigs were coming down the line. The animals from the ABF farms usually appeared somewhat unthrifty. Often there was less uniformity in carcass size and more ‘issues.’”...More
Despite reassurances to the contrary, seven months after the European Union (EU) introduced a ban on individual sow gestation stalls (except for the first four weeks of pregnancy), half of EU countries have failed to comply with the ban.
In response, retailers and food manufacturers must continue to be vigilant, warns Britain's National Pig Association (NPA). It argues that British consumers expect all imported pork and pork products to be traceable back to farms that comply with the European Union's January 2013 ban on the full-time use of sow stalls....More
The HumaneWatch project is releasing a new video in its campaign to curb misinformation about individual maternity pens (sow stalls) used in pork — yes, that means bacon — production that have come under attack by the Humane Society of the United States....More
As the debate about the benefits of gestation stalls vs. pens continues, it seems there is always another news story taking a look at this topic from yet another angle. This week was no exception. The story I found most interesting was on the U.S. Agricultural & Food Law and Policy Blog. The story provides details about a Florida court ruling in favor of a former pork producer who was forced out of business when the state passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of gestation stalls....More
A number of scientific studies have compared the welfare benefits of stall vs. group housing for gestating sows, according to a report released today by the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Study conclusions vary because welfare assessment involves a variety of measures, and the conclusions reached will vary depending on the emphasis placed on different measures, PSC researchers say....More
Florida passed the first constitutional amendment in 2002, prohibited the housing of pregnant sows in gestation crates. And now, Florida is marking up another first, with an appellate court decision affirming a ruling that awarded a producer $505,000 plus interest for improvements to his property that were made useless by the amendment. ...More
In 2007, Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced a goal of phasing out individual gestation stalls in favor of group housing for pregnant sows at all company-owned sow farms by 2017.
Smithfield Foods is on track to complete this goal and has created a video, which not only reaffirms Smithfield's industry-leading commitment to group housing systems on their company-owned farms, but also takes a specific and interesting look at what sows’ lives are like in Smithfield group housing....More
Producers battling high feed costs and swine housing decisions should tune into two upcoming free webinar series funded by the Pork Checkoff.
“There are a wide variety of options for housing gestating sows,” says Sherrie Niekamp, Pork Checkoff director of animal welfare. “These webinars will provide a summary of scientific literature and help producers make sound decisions about which housing type is best for their pigs given their resources and market.”...More
Good news is always appreciated, and the common sense displayed by governmental officials in both New York and New Jersey this month is positive for pork producers. On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have banned the use of sow stalls. The legislation had been pushed by animal rights groups. Earlier this month, the New York Legislature refused to pass legislation banning gestation stalls....More
Continuing the recent string of legislative defeats for the animal rights community, today New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have banned the use of individual maternity pens for pregnant sows. The legislation was pushed by animal-rights groups despite the fact that few of New Jersey’s small number of hog farmers use such housing....More
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has joined the New York Pork Producers and America’s hog farmers in hailing the New York Legislature for its positive action in not banning individual maternity pens for pregnant sows.
NPPC says the measure could have had a devastating effect on local sustainable agriculture in New York by forcing farmers to abandon this humane animal housing system. It is the latest in a string of recent victories on the East Coast for America’s pork producers. ...More
This week the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) reported that many of the largest supermarket companies across the border have decided to stop procuring pork produced in systems that use gestation stalls. The new procurement specifications will be phased in over the next nine years by retailers including Costco Canada, Wal-Mart Canada, Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys, Co-op Atlantic and Federated Co-operatives. The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) responded by saying producers will continue to focus on their first priority, which is the welfare of their animals, while working on a new set of animal care standards....More
The chair of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) says the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) commitment on sow housing provides an opportunity for productive dialog between farmers and retailers. “As a farmer, my first priority is the care and welfare of the animals. I am proud that my farm helps the Canadian pork industry provide consumers a healthy and safe food supply,” says CPC chair Jean-Guy Vincent. “Any change on farm must be done in a way that protects the welfare of the animals and keeps Canadian farms strong.”...More
Meatingplace.com reports that Quebec-based pork processor Olymel will progressively phase out using gestation stalls for pregnant sows in breeding facilities by 2022, according to Humane Society International/Canada. Olymel entered an agreement to acquire Big Sky Farms, Inc., the largest independent hog producer in Western Canada last October....More
At the National Pork Industry Forum last week, pork producers approved a resolution reaffirming the industry's position that producers should be able to select a sow housing system, including gestation stalls or individual maternity pens, which best promotes employee safety and animal care while ensuring a reliable supply of pork for consumers....More
Eight webinars delving into group sow housing options are being presented by Pork Checkoff this spring.
The free, 45-minute webinars begin at 1 p.m. central standard time and provide an opportunity to ask questions following the presentations.
The webinars consist of:...More
The owner of New Fashion Pork has heard enough about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) pleading with people for donations through advertising campaigns that tug at peoples' heartstrings, according to a report in the Daily Globe, Worthington, MN. The HSUS has earned a D from www.CharityWatch.org, an organization that rates nonprofit groups based on how they spend the donations given to them....More
Total meat production in the European Union (EU) will drop 2% in the next two years, according to a report published last Friday by the European Commission on the prospects for agricultural markets and income in the EU from 2012-2022. The EU ban on sow stalls, which came into effect at the beginning of the year, is expected to be one cause of this decrease, according to a report filed by Global Meat News....More