National Pig Association - The voice of the British pig industry

Pig World logo

Home > News > Why the pig industry uses farrowing crates

Why the pig industry uses farrowing crates

24th Jul 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The UK pig industry is well-known for taking a proactive approach to welfare across the wide variety of production systems we have, particularly when it comes to farrowing.

Farrowing crate 3We are already working closely with Government and manufacturers to explore alternatives to crates for those who want to make the move and there are plenty of large scale trials taking place looking at free farrowing and temporary crating systems, including using the 360 Freedom Farrower, which has been endorsed by Compassion in World Farming.

However, responding to calls by CIWF to ban farrowing crates, NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said there were valid reasons why crates were still needed in pig production.

“NPA would strongly oppose any attempts to unilaterally ban the use of farrowing crates as they serve an important purpose in protecting piglet welfare and stockperson safety during the critical period after birth,” she said, adding that any alternatives must be shown to provide the same level of protection to ensure piglet welfare.

She also challenged CIWF’s claim that larger litter sizes should be avoided. “Large litters, per se, are not an animal welfare issue. Pig welfare depends of the quality of stockmanship and farm management, whatever the system or litter size,” she said.

“Despite all the work that is currently taking place, there is no market pull or government support to finance such a costly move which, against a backdrop of very difficult trading conditions, would not make it an option for many producers at present.”

Farrowing 3“There is, therefore, a danger that if crates were unilaterally outlawed, pig production would become uncompetitive, farmers would go out of business and we would end up importing pork produced to lower standards,” Zoe said.

“The UK pig industry has already seen this happen when sow stalls were banned in 1999, resulting in a flood of cheaper imports from systems outlawed in this country, leading to the loss of half of the entire sow herd.”

She said banning farrowing crates would be a draconian move. “The suggestion is an insult to what we have already achieved.

“UK consumers already have unprecedented choice in the pork they buy, with over 40% of sows farrowing freely outdoors. This is in contrast to all other major pig producing countries where only a small percentage of sows give birth in free farrowing systems.

“Any move away from farrowing crates must be voluntary, supported by the market and Defra - not forced through by ill-thought-out legislation or we will just export more of our production.

“We would encourage government and the pork supply chain, including processors, retailers and consumers, to support those that wish to move towards increased use of indoor free-farrowing systems by enabling them to recoup the additional costs associated with them.”

Zoe also condemned secret footage taken inside pig units used to back up CIWF’s calls. “This is deeply irresponsible, given the current disease threat facing the industry, particularly when pictures of farrowing crates, which are still completely legal, are freely available."