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The ‘Real Welfare’ scheme: benchmarking welfare outcomes for commercially farmed pigs

  • F. Pandolfi (a1), K. Stoddart (a2), N. Wainwright (a2), I. Kyriazakis (a1) and S. A. Edwards (a1)...

Abstract

Animal welfare standards have been incorporated in EU legislation and in farm assurance schemes, based on scientific information and aiming to safeguard the welfare of the species concerned. Recently, emphasis has shifted from resource-based measures of welfare to animal-based measures, which are considered to assess more accurately the welfare status. The data used in this analysis were collected from April 2013 to May 2016 through the ‘Real Welfare’ scheme in order to assess on-farm pig welfare, as required for those finishing pigs under the UK Red Tractor Assurance scheme. The assessment involved five main measures (percentage of pigs requiring hospitalization, percentage of lame pigs, percentage of pigs with severe tail lesions, percentage of pigs with severe body marks and enrichment use ratio) and optional secondary measures (percentage of pigs with mild tail lesions, percentage of pigs with dirty tails, percentage of pigs with mild body marks, percentage of pigs with dirty bodies), with associated information about the environment and the enrichment in the farms. For the complete database, a sample of pens was assessed from 1928 farm units. Repeated measures were taken in the same farm unit over time, giving 112 240 records at pen level. These concerned a total of 13 480 289 pigs present on the farm during the assessments, with 5 463 348 pigs directly assessed using the ‘Real Welfare’ protocol. The three most common enrichment types were straw, chain and plastic objects. The main substrate was straw which was present in 67.9% of the farms. Compared with 2013, a significant increase of pens with undocked-tail pigs, substrates and objects was observed over time (P<0.05). The upper quartile prevalence was <0.2% for all of the four main physical outcomes, and 15% for mild body marks. The percentage of pigs that would benefit from being in a hospital pen was positively correlated to the percentage of lame pigs, and the absence of tail lesions was positively correlated with the absence of body marks (P<0.05, R>0.3). The results from the first 3 years of the scheme demonstrate a reduction of the prevalence of animal-based measures of welfare problems and highlight the value of this initiative.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

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The ‘Real Welfare’ scheme: benchmarking welfare outcomes for commercially farmed pigs

  • F. Pandolfi (a1), K. Stoddart (a2), N. Wainwright (a2), I. Kyriazakis (a1) and S. A. Edwards (a1)...

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