28 November 1997

Later weaning too expensive

CALLS by animal welfarists to delay weaning of piglets until they are at least six weeks old would result in £200m losses to the pig industry.

Mick Sloyan, Meat and Livestock Commission pig strategy manager, said that raising the weaning age from its current average of three-and-a-half weeks would mean fewer pigs a sow a year.

"We looked at a scenario where pigs were either weaned at 21.5 or 39 days. If one weans at the later stage, the difference would be a loss of 3.4 pigs a sow a year.

"With pigs making £70 a head, that works out at £250 a sow a year. Taking into account there are 788,000 sows in the UK, it works out at a loss of value of £200m."

His comments followed this weeks Press conference by Compassion in World Farming highlighting Chris Mullins Health and Welfare of Pigs Bill (News, Nov 11), which proposes that intensively-reared piglets should not to be weaned until they are at least six weeks old.

CIWF claimed piglets were weaned so early that they still wanted to suckle and, as a result, they sometimes bit their fellows tails.

Mr Sloyan pointed out that governments welfare advisers, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, had concluded that weaning from three weeks of age was accep-table.