Monday, March 23, 2009

Sow Housing Science Inconclusive

Issue Date: March 23, 2009 Issue 12 Volume 81
Sow housing science inconclusive


THE science does not currently exist to allow for rigid decisions on which type of housing is in the best interests of dry sows in commercial pork production, an international task force organized by the Council for Agricultural Science & Technology (CAST) has concluded.

The use of individual gestation accommodations (IGAs) for dry sows in commercial pork production is an issue that has raised much debate, and since public perceptions and misconceptions of welfare issues have the potential to dramatically affect swine production, CAST undertook the effort to provide an objective and scientific look at the subject.

"Too few statistically adequate, scientifically controlled trials on industry farms have been conducted; many reports are not useful for critical evaluation, thus for developing public policy," said task force chair Dr. Stanley Curtis with the department of animal sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. "More large-scale, on-farm, multidisciplinary, scientifically robust research and development are needed before rigid regulations should be imposed."

For the sake of history, farmers started moving sows inside during the mid-20th century to provide them with relief from variable weather conditions, environmental protection pressures, predators and parasitic and enteric diseases.

Additionally, the job of managing breeding pigs is physically challenging, and the added stress to herdspeople caring for larger numbers of pigs during inclement weather was a contributing factor prompting the move indoors, according to Curtis. Read More

To read CAST's entire report click here.

CAST is definitely right in that we don’t have enough scientific evidence to make sweeping legislatively driven changes to our methods of animal husbandry. But, as I have mentioned before, the changes being made are because emotion has trumped science in our society. All of our arguments for the way we raise animals has to be based in science and argued with passion and emotion. We need to be on the same playing field as our opponents if we ever expect to win.

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