Key determinants of pig welfare: implications of animal management and housing design on livestock welfare

Hemsworth, P. H.

Animal Production Science 58(8): 1375-1386


ISSN/ISBN: 1836-0939
DOI: 10.1071/an17897
Accession: 066365648

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The present review using the pig as a model has highlighted the importance of the design of the housing system on the welfare of farm animals. It has emphasised the need for research on animal welfare in new and modified housing systems, as well as current but contentious systems, to be attentive to the design contributions of these systems to animal welfare. The review has highlighted areas for future research to safeguard sow and piglet welfare, including the following: effective environmental enrichment for gestating sows in intensive, indoor and non-bedded systems; opportunities to increase foraging and feeding times in feed-restricted gestating sows; design features that allow both access to important resources, such as feed, water and a comfortable lying area, and escape opportunities to reduce aggression and minimise risks to the welfare of group-housed sows; and less confined farrowing and lactation systems. The review also shows that animal welfare problems may be less a function of the type of housing system than of how well it operates. The skills, knowledge and motivation of stockpeople to effectively care for and manage their animals are integral to the standard of welfare experienced by their animals. Attitudes influence not only the manner in which stockpeople handle animals, but also their motivation to care for their animals. Thus, training targeting technical skills and knowledge as well as the attitudes and behaviours of stockpeople should be a primary component of the human resource management practices at a farm. While public concerns and policy debates often focus on intensive housing systems, research indicates that the design and management of both indoor and outdoor housing systems is probably more important for animal welfare than is generally recognised.