Animal Welfare- How Does Your Farm Stack Up? By Dr. Joel Nerem from Pipestone Veterinary Services

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At the recent Pipestone Summit, we had an interesting exchange on pig farm biosecurity and the contrast between biosecurity measures employed at the sow farm and those effectively implemented in the wean to finish (W-F) farms. The takeaway for most was the striking gap found between sow farms and growing pig sites, with the breeding herds far outpacing the others. This sparked a recent discussion amongst our vet team as to whether this same disparity would be found with respect to animal welfare policies and the execution between sow farms and W-F sites. While we are reluctant to paint with too broad a brush, we suspect that there is room for improvement on many farms.

As an industry, pork producers are strongly committed to the well-being of the animals in their care- that’s true at PIPESTONE and I’m sure it is for every pig farmer reading this. One thing we learned at PIPESTONE nearly 10 years ago is that this commitment must be more than words- it has to be clearly demonstrated and communicated in tangible ways each and every day. It needs to be evident in our barns through the mindset of our animal caretakers and ultimately in the daily experience of the pigs in our care.

Over the past 10+ years, PIPESTONE has sought to elevate and improve on its commitment to animal well-being. Some of the efforts/outcomes that demonstrate the prioritization of animal welfare in PIPESTONE managed farms include:

  • Director of Animal Welfare position- Dr. Cara Haden currently fills this role and leads our animal welfare efforts.
  • Established animal care and animal welfare protocols. All farm team members are trained and tested on these upon being hired.
  • Clearly communicated zero tolerance policies for any animal abuse and an anonymous reporting mechanism for any animal welfare concerns.
  • Regular (monthly) animal welfare training review sessions.
  • Monthly unannounced animal welfare audits conducted by PIPESTONE Health Technicians.
  • Incentive bonuses for farm teams with perfect audit scores.
  • Protocols and standards for timely euthanasia.
  • Routine external audits on each farm through Validus for validation of our program.
  • Formation of an Animal Welfare Expert Panel consisting of outside industry experts in the field of animal welfare standards and research.

We recognize that many farms may need some assistance in these areas. PIPESTONE is ready to help. We are currently developing an enhanced set of W-F animal welfare standards. We also play to offer additional support and animal welfare auditing services. Please contact your veterinarian if you want to know more.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  1. What does your animal welfare training program consist of on your farm?
  2. When was your last animal welfare audit?
  3. Do you have a timely euthanasia policy that would satisfy a Validus auditor?