Promoting swine welfare

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The American Association of Swine Veterinarians is participating in the formation of the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization. Its mission is to promote the humane treatment of animals through the education and certification of veterinarians and animal scientists in the science of auditing animal production units. Dr. Rick Sibbel, 2003-2004 AASV president, appointed an executive task force to formulate an AASV strategy relating to third-party audits and the training necessary to become an animal auditor.

The Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants have developed an Animal Welfare Audit Program and hired SES Inc. of Lenexa, Kan., to administer the program and to train and certify individuals to perform on-farm audits. The pork industry, including the AASV, was not invited to provide input into the development of those audits, according to Dr. Thomas Burkgren, AASV executive director. The AASV believes that audits without industry stakeholder input do not improve the welfare of the animals but add a layer of cost.

The National Pork Board is promoting the Swine Welfare Assurance Program as an assessment tool for producers and veterinarians. Dr. Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology for the NPB, said SWAP is an example of the NPB and AASV working in lockstep on animal welfare. The program, which began last August, is a scientifically based tool that can evaluate on-farm animal welfare. SWAP educators help producers prepare for third-party audits when their market requires one.

At the AASV meeting, an educational session was held to certify SWAP educators. Dr. John Waddell, 2004-2005 AASV president, said that members of the association have embraced the program. So far, 56 instructors have been trained, most of them veterinarians, in 27 states. He hopes the AASV partnership with the NPB on SWAP will put swine veterinarians "ahead of the curve" so that they are sought out as the primary provider of services.

SWAP was built around a template of another NPB initiative, the Pork Quality Assurance Program, a three-level management education program for producers.

The AASV program lineup in Des Moines included several practical animal welfare sessions. A seminar was offered on ways that good animal welfare practices can also improve production. Speakers addressed facility remodeling, proper timing of euthanasia, space requirements, and trickle feeding versus drop feeding.

At another seminar, Dr. Mark J. Engle of the NPB discussed practical application of biosecurity. He advised veterinarians to be vigilant about portals of exit/escape for infectious disease agents as well as portals of entry. Veterinarians should develop written biosecurity plans specific for each farm or production system and consider development of regional or area biosecurity plans. Farm and service personnel should be educated about the underlying reasons for each protocol.

Later, Dr. Mike Brumm, University of Nebraska, talked about pig pens—from the pig's point of view. How do pigs see their world? By nature, they are curious, social, cautious, smart, and have long memories, he noted. Dr. Brumm discussed pen dynamics, social hierarchy, and eating and resting behaviors, offering suggestions based on those considerations.