28 August 1998

Jensen fails welfare tests

Danish pig producers have

opened units supplying

pigmeat for export to the

UK to counter criticism that

they fail to meet stringent

welfare standards imposed

here. Simon Wragg reports

NOT all Danes investing in stall and tether free systems will be eligible to supply UK contracts, as one Zealand producer has recently found out.

Lars Jensen runs a 310-sow herd on an 80ha (198-acre) arable unit in central Zealand. The chance to sell finished pigs on a UK supply contract is lucrative and could add 3p/kg deadweight to market prices which have fallen from Dkr12/kg (£1.13/kg) to Dkr7.5/kg (71p/kg) in the past year.

Despite converting a machinery shed to deep litter yards allowing 2.7sq m/sow, installing electronic sow feeders and suffering a 5% increase in sows returning to heat, Mr Jensen has just been delisted by Steff Holberg – a co-operative slaughterhouse handling 15% of all Danish pigmeat, destined mainly for export.

Torben Andersen, Steff Holbergs producer liaison manager, says inspection found Mr Jensen didnt keep pigs to good manufacturing practice (GMP). Stall and tethers were being used in parallel to loose housing.

In Mr Andersens definition GMP equates to the FABPigs husbandry and management requirements for rearing and finishing pigs ethically. "Some producers hoping to supply UK contracts have removed stalls and tethers, but lack management ability in other areas," says Mr Andersen.

At Mr Jensens unit, failure to manage batch farrowing could add to disease risk, says Mr Andersen. However, the unit is taking part in a national scheme to find natural controls for Actinobacillius pleuropneumonia (APP). Also, sows are confined to farrowing crates for too long – seven days before and up to five weeks after farrowing.

To gain acceptance on a UK supply contract and gain the resulting prmium, Mr Jensen must demonstrate better management to Steff Holbergs inspectors. This would lead to a guaranteed income boost of about £4000 a year for the unit, which sells 1700 pigs each year at 100-110kg liveweight.

Thats a big incentive on a unit forced to sell the best 75% of piglets in the weaner market at 30kg liveweight. Danish law dictates a limit on pig numbers according to unit size as a pollution control and this forces Mr Jensen to sell pigs as weaners on contract. However, prices have fallen by £20-30 a head in recent months, says Mr Jensen.

His remaining sow stalls must also be removed to comply with the UK contract. Mr Jensen hasnt the confidence to do that – some sows wont adapt to loose housing and need to be kept in stalls, he says.

He now faces the decision whether to remove remaining stall sows early and accept low cull prices or wait until sows are at the end of their productive lives and receive no premium for finished pigs during that time.

DANISH PIG FACTS

&#8226 19,000 producers, 22 million pigs

&#8226 Pig numbers. linked to farm size for slurry disposal

&#8226 Four slaughter co-ops handle 93% of pigs

&#8226 80% pigs exported – half as tailored cuts

&#8226 Value of exports down by 28%

&#8226 2-3p/kg dwt incentive to invest in loose housing