Animal welfare is also about business

Lars  Kristensen

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Animal welfare is also about business

Animal welfare is also about money. By optimising the welfare of the animals throughout the entire chain from farm to stunning, the use of time, meat quality, the work load and the environment can all be improved.

A well-designed pick-up facility can reduce the amount of fighting and thereby reduce the degree of skin damage. Furthermore, in a well-designed facility the pigs are encouraged to walk more voluntarily to the truck, thus reducing the time used to load the truck.

During transport, a well-designed vehicle with good ventilation can reduce the number of animals dying during transport and in the lairage. In the pig industry, mortality during transport is only 0.08 ‰ (2015), while mortality during lairaging is 0.2‰ (2015) for slaughter pigs. Furthermore, an optimal logistical planning system can help minimise the stress during loading and increase the meat quality measured by pH and drip loss.

With regard to unloading, it is important to optimise the design in such a way that, for example, the pigs do not get frightened by reflections and noises and that they walk voluntarily to the lairage. This facilitates the unloading process, reduces the amount of labour and optimises the working environment.

During lairaging, the pigs should be kept in small groups. Dividing big lairage pens into smaller units (approximately 15 pigs per unit) reduces fighting, since the pigs do not need to constantly re-establish their hierarchy. Research has shown that pigs in small groups are relaxed already after 10-15 min. This is beneficial due to the reduced amount of skin damage, which reduces the amount of necessary trimming and probably optimises the technological meat quality due to the decrease in drip loss.

In the race leading to the stunner, small groups are also easier to handle, and it is therefore easier to get the pigs to walk voluntarily. The number of pigs that fall is reduced, and this can reduce the amount of blood splash in the tenderloins and the hams. An optimal stunning procedure can also reduce the amount of blood splash, especially in the hams. A reduced amount of blood splash will reduce the need for trimming, thereby improving the economy of the abattoirs.