Pigs (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Pigs (PB7950)

Section 2 - Specific recommendations

Farrowing sows and piglets

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 299), Schedule 6, Part IV, paragraphs 30 to 35 state:
  1. Pregnant gilts and sows shall, where necessary, be treated against external and internal parasites.
  2. If they are placed in farrowing crates, pregnant sows and gilts shall be thoroughly cleaned.
  3. In the week before the expected farrowing time sows and gilts must be given suitable nesting material in sufficient quantity unless it is not technically feasible for the slurry system used.
  4. During farrowing, an unobstructed area behind the sow or gilt shall be available for the ease of natural or assisted farrowing.
  5. Farrowing pens where sows are kept loose must have some means of protecting the piglets, such as farrowing rails.
  6. In the week before the expected farrowing time and during farrowing, sows and gilts may be kept out of the sight of other pigs.
93. You should manage the feeding of sows and gilts so that they are in a suitable body condition at the time of farrowing. A target score of 3.5 - 4 should be aimed at just prior to farrowing. You should then gear the feeding regime to minimising any loss in body condition during lactation.
94. Nesting material should be provided, whenever possible, particularly in the 24 hours prior to farrowing to satisfy the sows need to nest-build and therefore minimise stress.
95. The environmental requirements of the sow and litter are considerably different. In an environmentally controlled farrowing house a heated creep area - up to 32oC - should be provided for the piglets. This can be by artificial heating, for example, overhead infra-red lamps, a heat pad, underfloor heating or alternatively by providing a well-bedded lying area. The sow, however, has different environmental requirements. The temperature in the farrowing room as a whole should be around 18oC - 20 oC. High temperatures for the sow can impair feed intake and her milking ability.
96. Where overhead lamps/heaters are used they should be securely fixed and should be protected from interference by the sow or piglets.
97. Farrowing accommodation should be so constructed and sufficiently big enough to allow the sow to rise up and lie down again without difficulty. You should be experienced and competent in the techniques of farrowing and should pay particular attention to hygiene, especially at assisted farrowings. Mechanical farrowing aids should only be used by a trained, competent operator.
The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 299), Schedule 6, Part V, paragraphs 43 to 47 state:
  1. If necessary, piglets shall be provided with a source of heat and a solid, dry and comfortable lying area away from the sow where all of them can rest at the same time.
  2. A part of the total floor where the piglets are and which is large enough to allow the animals to rest together at the same time, must be solid or covered with a mat or be littered with straw or any other suitable material.
  3. Where a farrowing crate is used the piglets must have sufficient space to be able to be suckled without difficulty.
  4. Piglets shall not be weaned from the sow at an age of less than 28 days unless the welfare or health of the dam or piglets would otherwise be adversely affected.
  5. Piglets may be weaned up to seven days earlier if they are moved into specialised housings which are emptied and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the introduction of a new group and which are separate from housing where other sows are kept.
98. Problems associated with weaning are related to the age at weaning. The earlier the weaning age the better must be the system of management and nutrition if welfare problems are to be avoided. Piglets should not be weaned from the sow at less than 28 days, although orphaned, sick and surplus piglets requiring special attention are obvious exceptions. The all-in-all-out system of managing pig housing maximises opportunities to prevent disease introduction or spread on a unit. Where these conditions are met, weaning may occur up to seven days earlier. At weaning, piglets should be moved into a specialised house which has previously been completely emptied of pigs, cleaned and disinfected.
99. It is particularly important that you watch piglets carefully for signs of diarrhoea or respiratory disease, such as coughing or rapid or laboured breathing, both of which can spread rapidly. If the piglets do not respond to treatment promptly or properly, you should seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.
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