1 Jul 2021

Farrowing crates phase-out: Pig farmers anxious about lack of consultation

2:01 pm on 1 July 2021

The pork industry has told the government phasing out the use of farrowing crates is a train wreck waiting to happen.

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NZ Pork chief executive David Baines says pig farmers are not against change but want to be involved with the process. Photo: 123rf.com

Last year, the High Court ruled the use of farrowing crates for pigs was unlawful. In response the government said it would phase them out over five years.

The crates are cages that keep a sow in a confined spot during the final months of her pregnancy and while she is suckling her piglets.

In a submission to the Primary Production Committee this morning, NZ Pork chief executive David Baines said the industry was not involved in the process, and was growing increasingly frustrated with associate minister of agriculture Meka Whaitiri, who is responsible for animal welfare.

"There are draft proposals with the minister now we understand, we are trying to encourage the minister to comply with the requirement of the act for us to be consulted, we are still struggling for that to occur," Baines said.

"We don't know what's being proposed we haven't seen the proposed regulations or the minimal animal welfare standards so that is a major concern for the industry.

"We are the most affected party, we should have sufficient input into the development of those standards but we feel like we have been excluded from that."

Baines said internationally, there was no better practice than using farrowing crates and sows were only in the crates for about 20 percent of the time.

"While in the crate, the sow has exclusive access to feed and water and always has her piglets with her, they are designed so the sow has to take her time to get up slowly.

"Without them, thousands of piglets will be crushed every year, you're talking about a 300 kilo sow versus a 1.5 kilogram piglet."

He said sows spenr a maximum of 28 days in the crates, typically sows spend 80 percent of their time in social groups when not in a farrowing system.

He said pig farmers were not against change but wanted to be involved with the process to provide the best animal welfare outcomes.

NZ Pork chairperson Eric Roy told the committee the unknowns were causing angst in the industry.

"We're heading for somewhat of a train wreck here, given the terms of reference and the international experience that's there, if the outcome is a lemon - either the NZ pork board or some of its members will seek a judicial process."

Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri has been approached for comment.

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