The Link Between Animal Welfare and Pig Performance
As the swine industry continues to grow and progress, we are faced with new challenges. One topic that is making its way to the frontlines is animal welfare. Producers are constantly challenged with improving living conditions for their animals to continue producing a safe end-product, as well as building relationships with consumers.
There are many different factors that contribute to the welfare of the animals, such as air and water quality, living conditions, nutrition, and disease management. All of these factors contribute to the animal’s quality of life and the quality of the pork product.
Legan Livestock and Grain, Inc. is a family farm raising swine and crops in Putnam County, Indiana. Modern animal welfare practices have been a factor to their success for nearly 25 years. Beth Tharp lent us some insight into their operation – how animal welfare is practiced on their farm and their thoughts into its importance in the industry.
Do you feel that animal welfare is an important piece of a successful operation?
Extremely. We have a moral obligation to care for our animals. We care for our animals and they care for us.
Why is it important that we continue to update welfare practices within the swine operation?
We strive for continuous improvement in our operation. We want to be better tomorrow than we are today. By keeping up with welfare practices and observing animals
every day, we can decide if we need to make changes to our practices to make sure the animals are comfortable and healthy.
Is there a system in place to evaluate the success of animal welfare on your farm?
PQA Plus is a great program that allows us to ensure that we, as an operation, are meeting industry standards for pork production. Additionally, we work very closely with our herd veterinarian, and take into account any suggestions he might have in terms of animal welfare. When we feed, we can tell a lot about how well our animal welfare practices are working by looking at the performance of our pigs. If a pig is underperforming, it could be related back to welfare practices. When walking through the barns, we are also able to tell if an animal is ill, uncomfortable, or injured and we can assess the situation and carry out the best course of
In what ways do you promote animal welfare to the general public on your farm? What ways have you found to be the most successful?
We promote animal welfare and agriculture in various ways to ensure our message gets out. We have a newsletter that we send out with articles about what we do on our farms, like antibiotic use and how we care for sows. We also use Facebook to promote our business and the swine industry. And, whenever we can, we use personal conversation so that consumers can get an inside look at where their food comes from and feel that they can relate to the people who produce it.
What do you think is the biggest welfare issue facing the swine production industry today?
I’m not sure there is just one. The industry has faced a lot of pressure regarding societal concerns of sow stall use. I think pain management is a big one that we will continually have to evaluate. To us, it’s important to be transparent about what happens on our farm and educate people about how we raise pigs.
There’s a lot to be said about the way agriculture is changing. Farmers are producing more food on less land than ever before. As consumers become further removed
from the farm, it’s imperative that we, as producers, continue to advocate for the industry and educate the public on our practices.
What is PQA Plus?
PQA Plus is an educational program representing the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement of production practices. It addresses food safety, animal well-being, environmental stewardship, worker safety, public health and community. It is administered through the Pork Checkoff? There are two components to PQA Plus. First, individuals can become certified through an education program.
Second, farms can receive PQA Plus site status through an on-farm site assessment with a PQA Plus. Advisor PQA Plus is the industry’s way of demonstrating accountability for the pork produced, as well as a solution to customers’ (restaurants, food retailers and consumers) concerns over food safety and animal well-being.
The U.S. pork industry has had a 100 percent legislative checkoff program since 1986. Congress created the Pork Checkoff as part of The Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act of 1985. The National Pork Board executes specific programs in the areas of promotion, research and education.
Legan Livestock and Grain, Inc. is a family farm raising swine and crops in Putnam County, Indiana. Modern animal welfare practices have been a factor to their
success for nearly 25 years. Beth Tharp lent us some insight into their operation – how animal welfare is practiced on their farm and their thoughts into its importance in the industry.