Sow Stalls Banned?
Recent media coverage of the industry decision to phase out sow stalls and the Coles decision not to buy pork from producers that use sow stalls from 2013, has given people hope that life will change for the thousands of sows farmed intensively in Australia.
But how sincere are the promises? The Australian Pork industry has promised to 'pursue the voluntary phasing out of sow stalls by 2017'.
Unlike New Zealand where the government has legislated the banning of sow stalls from 2015, in most states of Australia we have new legislation that allows the continued use of sow stalls indefinitely.
So there is no such thing as banning of sow stalls in australia, just a promise from industry from those that see the benefit of ending the practice of keeping sows in stalls. As for the rest? They will probably just trade on the ignorance of consumers that will just assume all is well in the Australian Pork industry now. An industry that seems only to keen to perpetuate that misunderstanding with misleading statements in the media.
As long as we have laws permitting the use of sow stalls their use will never be 'phased out'. Its all a matter of smoke and mirrors to build confidence in Australian pork. The Code of Practice is due to be revised in 2014. Lets see how serious the industry is about phasing out sow stalls then.
Farrowing Crates are different to Sow Stalls and they have not been brought into the debate as yet.
Sow stalls have become a very contentious issue. Consumers are becoming more educated about the source of their food and animal welfare is high on the agenda. Many perceive sow stalls as cruel and unnecessary.
Changes are being made to the size of new sow stalls, requirements for existing installations and the maximum time that a sow can be kept in such stalls. These requirements are spelt out in the Standards within the Model Code of Practice which are soon to become law.
Given the changes that need to happen, the expense of such modifications and the huge potential for future backlash from consumers in regard to sow stalls, it may pay to look at sow stall free alternatives to secure long term benefits for your business.
Problems with stalls
Physical disorders such as joint damage, leg weakness and urinary tract infections due to lack of exercise and confinement on hard floors.
Chronic stress, aggressive and abnormal behaviour due to boredom from excessive periods of confinement.
Note: 4.1.1 of the Code states that accommodation for pigs must be designed, constructed and managed in such a way that it protects pigs form adverse weather, injuries or other harm.
Benefits of stalls
Easier for stockpeople to individually supervise and examine animals and feed/water them
Easier to supervise and control adult pigs efficiently
Protection of piglets and easier supervision of sows and piglets at farrowing
Note: these benefits are for handlers and stockpersons, not in the interest of the welfare of the pigs.
Model Code of Practice
states that all new installations of sow stalls must meet the following dimensions;
Sows 0.6 m x 2.2 m
Boars 0.7 m x 2.4 m
installations must now meet theses requirements of the Code:
4.1.1 Accommodation for pigs must be designed, constructed and managed is such a way that it protects pigs from adverse weather, injuries or other harm.
4.1.3 Sows and boars accommodated individually in stalls must be able to stand, get up and lie down without being obstructed by the bars and fittings of the stalls, lie with limbs extended, to stretch and to be ble to freely undertake such movements. Specifically, in the case of sows and boars:
a) They must be able to stand up at rest in a stall without simultaneously touching both sides of the stall.
b) When they lie down in the stall their snouts and hindquarters must not simultaneously be touching the ends of the stalls.
c) If the stall has bars along the top these must not be touching their backs when standing at rest or when they have their heads down feeding.
d) The placement of drinkers and/or feed/water troughs in the stall must be easily accessible to them, but must not prevent ability to stand, stretch and lie down.
e) When lying down, any contact with their neighbours in stalls on either side must not result in injury.
: There is
no phase out
of existing small stalls if they meet the requirements above. There is no requirement to increase the size of these stalls to meet the dimensions for new stall installations. This essentially allows sows to continue to be kept in stalls only a fraction larger than their bodies indefinitely.
The Code also states that:
4.1.5 From 10 years after endorsement of the code a sow must not be confined in a stall for more than 6 weeks of any gestation period.
From 2017, for pregnant sows there will be a maximum of 6 weeks (previously 16 weeks) confinement in stalls, after which they will be released into group housing situations with other sows i.e. they will be only be allowed to be closely confined until they are mated and their pregnancy is confirmed. However, there are also provisions within the code to allow the producer to keep sows in stalls for longer periods. At this stage there is no indication of how these requirements will be enforced.
Alternatives to Sow Stalls
Indoor group housing (smaller groups in large pens)
Straw based shelters
Free Range - outdoors
Farrowing Crates are not the same thing as Sow Stalls
Farrowing crates were conceived in an attempt to reduce the trampling and crushing of piglets by the sow by forcing the sow to lie down slowly and carefully due to the tiny dimensions of the crate. However, data provided by Australian Pork Limited states that the current industry average for pre-weaning deaths of piglets stands at 13.1% so this figure would indicate that farrowing crates are not as efficient as we are led to believe. It is plausible then to assume that there would be little difference to mortality rates if the sows were to farrow in straw filled pens.
Just like sow stalls, farrowing crates are frowned on by consumers
A carefully designed pen, with one corner made inaccessible to the sow to form a creep area, is a cost effective way to farrow your sows. The pens must be large enough to allow the sow to turn around and lay down with plenty of room for the piglets to escape her. Straw bedding not only caters to the sows instinct to nest, it helps keep the piglets warm and dry when the litter is well maintained. The bedding will also double as a valuable fertilizer on the farm, or a source of income (compost) when the sow is moved on.
Even for the intensive industry, there are alternatives
The benefits of not using farrowing crates are further discussed
under teeth clipping.