Improvement in pig welfare through collaboration
You better get used to it, because you will hear the term NAE, or ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ more often in the future. Perdue Foods, one of the biggest poultry producers in the US has been producing NAE birds for many years and started placing 100% of the birds as NAE in 2017.
Antibiotic reduction is a hot topic in pretty much all the regions in the world. Europe set the stage, more than a decade ago with the banning of AGP’s in animal feed. The US and Asia are also following suit by curbing therapeutic and preventive use of antibiotics in farm animals. As a result, more of the meat hitting supermarket shelves are starting to advertise as being antibiotic free, or raised without antibiotics. And here is where the confusion starts with the general public.
To my surprise, as I sat down at my table I was surrounded by veterinarians, swine producers, allied industries and research scientists all dedicated to improving pig welfare on-farm. Not only was the workshop diverse in the fields and interests of those participating, but also encompassed a strong international perspective, hosting over 10 countries with varying experiences in loose farrowing systems.
Re-designing the loose farrowing pen
In contrast to some conferences that schedule the entire day with 30 minute presentations, this workshop focused much more on hands-on problem solving among the group. Developing, designing, destroying and redesigning the perfect loose farrowing pen encompassed much of the second day.
Groups of 5 participants with a range of backgrounds and skill sets sat around tables cutting out feeders, creep space for piglets and enrichment devices to carefully piece together the puzzle for the perfect farrowing pen.
Optimising sow and piglet welfare
This hands-on work allowed us to go beyond thinking about loose farrowing from a scientific perspective and challenged each one of us to think in a way that optimises the sow and piglet’s welfare, the labour requirements from staff and the economic impact to the producer. This type of approach to a complicated question like loose farrowing systems is the step in the right direction for making positive improvements.