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Welfare Issues Relating to Rearing Entire Boars in the Spotlight

20 August 2012, at 11:15pm

ANALYSIS - A new report launched last week focuses on the welfare problems of rearing entire male pigs, and looks at ways in which welfare can be enhanced in the pig industry. High and volatile feed prices and their impact on the prospects for the pig industry in the coming months remain in the news, and reports of new outbreaks of African Swine Fever in Russia.

In the report, author, veterinarian Ruth Clements of Food Animal Initiative (FAI), outlines the problems caused by housing entire males in commercial units, including aggression and injury caused by sexual behaviour and considers some of the options for reducing their prevalence.

Entitled ‘Entire Male Pig Production: Welfare Management Issues’, the report was produced by agriculture and science consultancy, FAI, and commissioned by Pfizer.

It highlights a range of possible solutions to tackle welfare issues caused by entire males in commercial units. These include selection of genetic lines with reduced aggressive tendencies, modification of housing environment to reduce the level of social contact, provision of manipulable materials which allow natural rooting behaviour and temporary reduction of testosterone in male pigs through an Improvac welfare management programme.

The feed situation remains much in the news. In its monthly agricultural supply and demand update, the US Department of Agriculture again lowered the outlook for US corn production, reflecting the continued deterioration of this year’s crop due to the once-in-a-lifetime drought that affects most of the US Corn Belt. The latest USDA projection lowers US corn production to 274 million metric tons, down almost 40 million tons from last year, and the lowest since 2006, according to the US Grains Council.

World corn production is estimated at 849 million tons (33.4 billion bushels), down 27 million tons (1.1 billion bushels) from last year, but 19 million tons (748 million bushels) higher than 2010/2011 due to higher production from China, Brazil and Argentina.

African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks continue to be reported in the Russian Federation. Recent outbreaks have been linked to reports of stolen pig feed in affected regions. The first outbreak has been reported in the Rostov region. Samples taken from around 100 dead pigs found dumped at a farm in Tselinskii district have been identified as contaminated with the ASF virus. An outbreak of African Swine Fever has been reported in a herd of village pigs in Yaroslav oblast in eastern Russia, also beleived to be the first in this region.

Exacerbation of the ASF situation has led to the implementation of measures to prevent introduction and spread of the virus into the territory of Kostroma region. The city of Kostroma lies around 300km north-east of Moscow.