The National Pork Board has just released its new, voluntary Swine Welfare Assurance Program. This educational assessment tool, available to all U.S. pork producers, will help evaluate and benchmark the care and welfare of their animals, and provide science-based solutions to concerns.

"Animal welfare is a pork producer priority," says Kathy Chinn, a producer from Clarence, Mo. and chairman of NPB’s Animal Welfare Committee. "This voluntary program is an important tool to help producers evaluate production. It also shows customers and retailers that we take our tradition of responsible animal care seriously."

Because markets eventually may require producers to follow certain welfare guidelines, SWAP is intended to let producers illustrate that they are practicing sound, science-based production practices.

"SWAP was more than three years in the making," notes Chinn. "SWAP can be applied to any production system, regardless of size, type or geographical location."

A panel that included international animal-welfare experts, veterinarians and pork producers developed SWAP. It has the look of the Pork Quality Assurance Program in its use of nine care and well-being principles. The SWAP divides the on-farm evaluation into two production phases: 1) gilts, sows, boars and neonatal pigs; 2) nursery and finishing pigs.

SWAP’s nine care and well-being principles are:

1.Herd Health and Nutrition – addresses six recordkeeping areas, including those that document the veterinarian-client-patient relationship; herd health program; medication and treatment records; mortality; pigs euthanized; and the pigs' nutritional programs.
2. Caretaker Training– focuses on the husbandry skills training of all caretakers. This section evaluates the operation's training programs in euthanasia, animal handling and husbandry, as well as what career development opportunities are available to the producer and employees.
3. Animal Observation–this helps verify that other aspects of the welfare program are extended to the animals. This includes daily observations, animal evaluations, swine behavior and pig social contact.
4. Body Condition Score–this is crucial to evaluating the adequacy of the nutrition program.
5. Euthanasia – this measures the operation's euthanasia action plan, including the timeliness, applied methods and the use of equipment.
6. Animal Handling and Movement – evaluates proper animal handling, facility considerations and equipment used to move animals.
7. Facilities – helps evaluate facilities for ventilation, heating and cooling, physical space to accommodate the animal’s body, pen maintenance, feeder space, water availability and the availability of a hospital pen.
8. Emergency Support – this uses a working emergency support system and a written action plan to provide direction in case of an emergency.
9. Continuing Assessment and Education – helps improve management skills. Producers are encouraged to access the latest information about practices related to animal care, husbandry and welfare.

The on-farm voluntary assessments will be performed by certified SWAP educators, who have been trained and tested to ensure that they are familiar with the program and how it applies to pork producers. To locate a CSE, contact your state swine Extension office, state pork producer office or NPB at (800) 456-PORK or on the Web site at www.porkboard.org

"This is a valuable, proactive program for America's pork producers to stay on the forefront of sound production principles and continue to do the right thing," says Chinn.

National Pork Board.