6 November 1998

Better welfare boosts returns

PRODUCERS may feel welfare schemes add little or nothing to their income, but improving welfare on a day-to-day basis improves returns.

Cambacs John Chambers told visitors at last weeks South West Pig Fair at Shepton Mallet that they should be justifiably proud of steps to improve welfare, but there was scope for further improvement. He said there were no exceptions and all farms could take action.

"The main concern must be overcrowding and its effect on growth," said Mr Chambers. While recognising the crisis has put undue pressure on space, he urged producers to reduce stocking rates wherever and as soon as possible.

Downgrading

Higher stocking density could compound the risk of physical damage to pigs which can, in some circumstances, lead to down-grading of carcasses, he warned. In particular, he urged producers to be aware of sharp objects which can cause skin damage.

"A typical example would be where a feeder or water pipe has been removed but securing bolts and screws are left exposed."

Lameness and foot problems were of equal concern. Wear and tear of slatted, meshed and concrete floors were likely causes of foot problems which can go unnoticed until rooms were depopulated.

Cut stress by ensuring adequate feeder and drinker allocation to cut risks of restricted intakes for less confident pigs, and check ventilation to avoid suppressing appetites, he said. &#42