Current challenges in pig farming

According to the results of the 2016 agricultural structures survey, there are 40,000 holdings keeping pigs. The majority of them are family-owned businesses. About 35 percent of them keep fewer than 50 animals. Currently, pig keepers are confronted with many challenges.

There are three main concerns: confinement of sows in crate stalls, tail docking and piglet castration. Find out more in the following:

Confinement of sows in crate stalls

Usually, a sow is kept in a crate stall for a few days before insemination, during insemination and for a maximum of up to four weeks in the service area.

According to the requirements of the Animal Welfare - Farm Animal Husbandry Ordinance, every pig must be able, unhindered, to stand up, lie down and stretch out its head as well as its limbs when lying on its side. The holdings have difficulties implementing this requirement since stall conversions and related investments present a high economic burden for many holdings.

Against this backdrop, a new regulation on the confinement of sows in crate stalls is currently being discussed. Its main aim is to significantly reduce the amount of time that sows spend in crate stalls.

Tail docking

In conventional pig farming, the animals frequently bite each other’s tails. There are different and multi-faceted reasons for the occurrence of tail biting. Stocking density, stable climate, animal nutrition and the occupational material may play a role. Tail docking, which is currently practised throughout the EU except in Finland and Sweden, can reduce the risk of tail biting.

According to German and European animal welfare law, routine tail docking is banned and only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

In various audits, the European Commission objected to the practice of tail-docking in the member states with a high number of pig farms, including Germany, and considered it non-compliant with European legislation. For this reason, in 2018 the federal states took the lead in developing an action plan, which aims prospectively to eliminate tail docking in Germany.

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