Friday, April 24, 2015

Hygiene & Welfare Trip; Pigs

I tagged along to the Hygiene & Welfare trip again today, to visit a pig farm about an hour away from Kosice which they said was a poor example but it had all stages we needed to see; natural breeding, farrowing, weaning, pre-fattening and fattening.
Most places nowadays will use AI, farrow on site then send the piglets off for weaning and fattening so it was good to see it all together.

All the pigs are Middle Whites, a quick growing, early maturing breed with apparently excellent flavour and a lightweight carcass.
The piglets are given constant access to feed and water from day one with heat lamps for the first few days, though there wasn't much ventilation in the shed so it was very warm in their anyway. They are vaccinated and have ears tattooed at a young age, though I didn't ask what they're vaccinated against.

After 28 days the piglets are weaned and castrated and moved to another building for pre-fattening, then finally fattening in small groups. In theory it's an all in-all out system where everything is washed and disinfected between litters but it didn't look like anything had been cleaned in a long time.
Once they reach 110kg liveweight they are sent to slaughter.

After her piglets are weaned, the sows are then moved to these small crates for 21 days while they get back into oestrus before being put back with a boar for mating and placed in a bigger pen for gestation; 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.
Sows usually have 5 or 6 litters before their milk quality decreases meaning piglets don't thrive, making it economically unviable to keep them so they are sent to slaughter and gilts (young females) are chosen from the younger pigs to replace them.

We had stud boars at the farm I worked at in Aberystwyth which were kept immaculately in brand new modern buildings which you had to have a shower and put on a clean boiler suit to even enter so this was a stark contrast to that. Those boars had semen collected which was looked at in a lab, chilled and sent off to various breeding units around the UK once a week.
The other pig production unit I've spent time on was a huge free range outdoor unit in Cambridge where they use AI, sows farrow outdoors and the piglets are kept outside in groups until slaughter with lots of space to run around and wallow.

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