• Prevalence of welfare outcomes in the weaner and finisher stages of the production cycle on 31 Irish pig farms

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Calderón Díaz, Julia A.; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 11/S/107 (Biomed Central, 2018-03-27)
      Background Knowledge on the most prevalent welfare problems for pigs in different production stages is required to improve herd management plans. Thirty-one farrow-to-finish pig farms were visited between July and November 2015 to assess the welfare of pigs using the multicriteria approach of the Welfare Quality® protocol. On each farm, 6 pens were selected using proportionate stratified sampling in the first weaner (S1, 4 to 8 wks), second weaner (S2, 8 to 13 wks) and finisher stage (S3, 13 to 23 wks), excluding hospital pens. Each pen was observed for 10 min and the number of pigs affected by different welfare outcomes was recorded. The percentage of pigs affected was calculated and ranked to identify the most prevalent outcomes within each production stage. Differences between production stages were analysed using generalised linear mixed models for binomial data with pen within stage and farm as a random effect. Results Tail and ear lesions showed the highest prevalence; however, large variation was observed between farms. In S1 the most prevalent welfare outcomes (presented as median prevalence) were poor body condition (4.4%), lethargic pigs (1.5%), scouring (20.3% of pens) and huddling (3.7%). In S2 and S3 outcomes related to injurious behaviour (tail lesions: 5.9% [S2] and 10.5% [S3], ear lesions: 9.1% [S2] and 3.3% [S3], and flank lesions: 0.4% [S2] and 1.3% [S3]), lameness (0.8% [S2] and 1.1% [S3]), bursitis (3.9% [S2] and 7.5% [S3]) and hernias (1.6% [S2] and 1.8% [S3]) were more prevalent. Conclusions A large variation was observed for the recorded welfare outcomes corresponding to the different challenges pigs experience during the different stages of production on commercial pig farms. The prevalence of pigs affected by lesions caused by injurious behavior is a cause for concern and requires a collaborative approach to identify appropriate intervention strategies. This information could be used to further investigate appropriate benchmark values for different welfare outcomes that would assist the pig industry to develop appropriate health and welfare management plans to minimise welfare problems. At herd level such plans should include information on aspects of intervention, treatment, and the management of hospital pens as well as euthanasia.