Pork industry body NZPork has put forward alternatives to the way pigs are farmed in response to Government proposals.
NZPork’s proposals include ensuring all sows are provided with nesting material before farrowing. To balance sow behavioural needs with piglet protection, the sows would remain in farrowing crates for up to seven days total (rather than up to 33 days as current standards allow) but no more than four days after giving birth.
The minimum space allowance for growing pigs would be increased by 13%.
It also proposes eliminating the use of mating stalls for housing sows.
According to NZPork, the changes would place New Zealand’s standards beyond those required in the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and China – which collectively produce most of the world’s pork and supply most of the pork exported to New Zealand.
NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said the industry supported the need for change but the proposals released by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) in its Draft Code of Welfare for pigs would have unintended negative animal welfare outcomes and drive many pig farmers out of business.
NAWAC’s Draft Code of Welfare for pigs includes two options for increasing the minimum amount of space provided to pigs – either by 56% or 140%.
It suggests two options for farrowing crates; either to ban crates altogether or to limit usage to three days only.
The code also proposes farrowing pens should be a minimum of 6.5 square metres and to introduce a minimum weaning age for piglets of 28 days.
“While NAWAC is an expert committee, it has no expertise or understanding of pig farming,” said Kleiss.
“NZPork has worked with our technical advisors to develop alternative proposals, which are based on a rigorous in-depth review of contemporary pig welfare science and good practice. They are substantial, meaningful and collectively demonstrate welfare standards that go beyond all major pork-producing countries.”
NZPork seeks to retain an outcome-based approach to deciding when piglets should be weaned. Keliss said this would better cater for the welfare needs of both sows and piglets, rather than adopting a prescribed and inflexible minimum weaning age as proposed by NAWAC.
He also said NZPork’s alternatives to NAWAC’s proposals would still be costly to implement, but they had the support of most commercial pig farmers.
“NAWAC has not considered the substantial cost to industry of its own proposals, which hasn’t been helped by their inability to agree on what represents minimum standard in some cases.
“NZPork believes the costs of NAWAC’s proposals are likely to be in the order of $10,000-$20,000 per sow on a standard farrow to finish operation, the equivalent of more than 20 years profit.
“Our own industry proposals will still need government support along with adequate time to implement change.”
NZPork is also urging the Government to require imported pork to be held to the same higher welfare standards.
“The alternatives we propose are based on sound animal welfare science and are more achievable to implement,” said Kleiss.
“It would provide consumers with continued access to New Zealand-born pork, raised to high welfare standards.”
NZPork has outlined the proposed alternative approach in its submission on the Proposed Code of Welfare for Pigs and Associated Regulations.
Federated Farmers also submitted on the draft code and supported NZPork’s stance while questioning the NAWAC process used to develop the draft.
Consultation on the draft code has now closed.