Runout into freedom and lower stocking rates
We demonstrate the life of two pigs. Furthermore we give facts and therefore we have spoken another time with a scientist.
Dr. Werner Hagmüller works in the Institut für Biologische Landwirtschaft und Biodiversität der Nutztiere of LFZ Raumberg-Gumpenstein and deals with problems of animal health in biological factories. His special field is the “pig” and the main focus is on disease prevention while using alternative methods, on improvement of management in sow-holding, in advancement of stalls and in optimisation of feeding for breeding sows and farrows.
As a veterinarian he is interested since five years in the theme “castration” (theoretical and practical).
Therefore we have an expert who will answer our questions.
In your experience: what is the biggest problem concerning pig-holding?
First of all I want to mention that it is very difficult to make a professional evaluation concerning pig-holding in combination with animal protection. The castration and the cutting of tails from farrows without anaesthesia is one important fact. But first of all I want to speak about the holding of breeding sows. Before, during and after having litter in a farrowing crate sows are stressed very much. Sows that are not fixed show a multifarious behaviour, e.g. nest-building, change of position, contact to the farrows. But fixed sows will be bad influenced while birthing. The loss of farrows is lower if sows are fixed. But it is more natural for sows, if they are not fixed. And if they are well-conditioned (not so fat), the loss of farrows won´t be so high because of the maternal instincts.
What about the using of farrowing crates for sows?
In addition to the last point I have to add the following: If the management is well-done, the loss of farrows where sows are fixed is the same as the loss of farrows where sows are not fixed. Experiences in Switzerland can show that in a high amount of experiments (e.g. WEBER, R. et al. 2006). Only the reason for the loss of farrows is not the same. The loss of farrows is higher if sows are not fixed, but the loss of farrows in consequence of other reasons is reduced. The requirement for a efficient system of non-fixed sows is for instance more place, a better climate and a warm farrow-nest.
In which complexity does the castration without anaesthesia causes pain at farrows? What are alternatives?
Castration without anaesthesia is a big surgical intervention. The skin incision and the removal of the balls are very painful for all pigs. Young farrows less than seven days have a full developed pain-awareness. The direct pain while operation is as important as the following pain (lasts at least 24 hours). In Austria there is a discussion about using medicine to suppress the pain of the wound. That is an improvement of the situation, but no solution of the direct pain while operating. To narcotize the farrows with CO² or Isofluran is not relevant. While using CO² farrows are stressed because they seem to suffocate and it takes a long time. Furthermore only veterinarians are allowed to use Isofluran, it is toxic for the liver, bad for fertility and the ozone layer. The only method that is not surgical is the inoculation against boar-smell and mast of boars. This method of treatment seems to be the only meaningful solution. It is not a hormone, but an inoculant. And it has to be clarified, what the expectances of consumers are. The most animal-friendly method is the mast of boars. Here boars would be feed up to the weight of 80kg. And the meat would smell less. But his method is not perfected. Until now there exists no “electric nose” in slaughterhouses.
What do you think about ideal holding of pigs relating to the welfare of the animals?
Relating to the welfare of the animals, the holding in little groups with much agitation on an unhitched substrate and a structured area would be the best solution. A combination of free-range and indoor breeding seems to be optimal. Furthermore a biological farming is an acceptable compromise under condition of economic success. Pigs will be kept well and fit under the above mentioned conditions. But the most important point is the animal care. A good education and a basic understanding for the behaviour of pigs are the groundwork of an optimized welfare of animals.