Producers will continue to rely on sound science to make decisions about the care of their animals, even after Florida voters' decision to make sow-gestation stalls illegal in that state, says Kathy Chinn, chairman of the National Pork Board's Animal Welfare Committee and a Missouri producer.
"It's unfortunate that the general public did not have the benefit of scientific information or understanding of swine-care practices on which to base their decision," she adds.
Earlier this year, the American Veterinary Medical Association adopted a resolution supporting the use of sow-housing configurations that:
1. Minimize aggression and competition between sows;
2. Protect sows from detrimental effects associated with environmental extremes, particularly temperature extremes;
3. Reduce exposure to hazards that result in injuries;
4. Provide every animal with daily access to appropriate food and water; and
5. Facilitate caretaker's observation of individual sow appetite, respiratory rate, urination and defecation, and reproductive status.
Scientific literature indicates that gestation stalls meet each of the aforementioned criteria, provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered, states the AVMA resolution.
Producers continue to invest in ways to enhance on-farm facilities and care practices, says Chinn. The national pork checkoff funded $400,000 in swine-welfare research in 2002, including four projects specifically addressing sow-gestation housing. NPB's Animal Welfare Committee ranks sow gestation housing as a top priority in 2002 and 2003.
"Pork Producers understand the importance of good animal husbandry on their farms. Our livelihood depends on it," sys Chinn. "Through the pork checkoff, producers invest in research and educational programs in order to have the tools to practice animal husbandry that is scientifically sound."
Chinn points to other checkoff-sponsored programs that relate to animal care and welfare.They include the Swine Welfare Assurance Program, which gives producers an objective tool to document husbandry practices; the Swine Care Handbook, which offers guidelines for swine welfare in various production systems; and continuing research. These exemplify producers' commitment to good stockmanship and care, Chinn notes. NPB also has worked with the retail and foodservice industries to establish humane-treatment guidelines that are grounded in science.
"What people might not understand is that every production system has benefits and challenges," says Chinn. "Producers who use gestation stalls can control the climate and maintain a clean environment so they can monitor and promote the health of their sows. Stalls also give each sow its own space so they can meet individual needs and be protected from other aggressive sows."
National Pork Board