An excellent report was produced and published on the EFSA website last
year on the welfare of rearing pigs in relation to different space allowances
and floor types (over 130 pages). It covers many aspects of pig's welfare and
husbandry and clearly demonstrates that no system is without its
There are moves within the EU to ban fully slatted-floor systems
for finishers, as they are considered bad for a pig's welfare by being
uncomfortable and potentially increasing leg problems, tail-biting and are a
relatively barren environment for pigs to express their normal behaviour of
Producers are not providing sufficient enrichment materials
but it is difficult in slatted-floor systems because the materials can block the
slats or drop through.Trial data
Recent UK trial data
2006) comparing straw-bedded and fully-slatted pens for
keeping pigs, showed there was a lower incidence of pig removals caused by tail
biting in the straw-bedded pigs (1.4% to 11.7%) also lameness was lower (3.9% to
7.4%) but there was a much higher incidence of wasting associated with PMWS
(12.9% to 4.7).
Overall, there was a mortality and
removal rate of 32.3% in the straw-bedded pens and 33.6% in the fully-slatted
pens, both would be considered high but overall both are very
So what are they considering as
suitable alternatives? Partially-slatted floors are thought to be the ideal
compromise, as they offer easy dung removal and improved comfort.
people's experiences, however, they are the worst of both systems, not the
In hot weather the pigs soil the lying area and wallow during the
day and get chilled at night. In under-ventilated or over-ventilated conditions
they also soil the lying area. I have seen producers rip these systems out and
replace them with fully-slatted floors to overcome the pneumonia
and production problems.
These problems could
be argued as poor environmental control and house design but often one is left
to manage a system that is provided.EFSA report
In the EFSA
report it shows, in the EU countries surveyed in the 1990s, 47% of pigs are
finished on partially-slatted floors, 44% on fully-slatted floors and 9% on
solid floors, with or without straw and other bedding.
I have borrowed a
quote from an old friend, Mark White, a UK consultant vet that sums up the issue
"let's stop worrying about systems and start concentrating on management" -
let's hope the regulators take note of this advice and don't disrupt nearly half
the pig production in Europe.
What do you think?