Following extensive work by researchers at University of Bristol, University of Newcastle and RSPCA over several years, the AHDB Pork Real Welfare scheme was launched as a requirement of Red Tractor Farm Assurance on 1 April 2013.
What is Real Welfare?
Real Welfare involves on-farm assessment of pig welfare using a set of five objective and repeatable measures. These measures are known as ‘welfare outcomes’ which are animal-based, meaning that they are obtained from the animals themselves, rather than from their environment. Real Welfare was developed in response to the pig industry’s need for strong, science-based evidence to demonstrate its husbandry standards to retailers, animal welfare lobby groups, policy makers and consumers. To read more about how Real Welfare can benefit your business, click here.
What are the measures?
Sample pens of finisher pigs (>50 kg) are routinely assessed for the following (the fifth measure is optional):
- Pigs that would benefit from removal to hospital pen
- Lame pigs
- Pigs with tail damage
- Pigs with body marks
- Environmental enrichment provision and use
Real Welfare is also used to collect information on other variables, such as feeding practices, pen variables, and whether tails are docked or undocked.
More information about how and why these are measured can be found by clicking here.
Who carries out the assessments?
Real Welfare assessments are carried out by veterinary surgeons who are members of the Pig Veterinary Society. All veterinarians wishing to carry out these assessments are required to undergo regular online and practical training click here for more information. The assessments are usually carried out as part of the quarterly veterinary visits. As the veterinarian knows the unit, they can immediately give advice, where and when needed. Any agreed course of action is recorded in the farm’s Veterinary Health Plan and becomes auditable by the Red Tractor auditors.
How many pigs are assessed?
Real Welfare assessments take place 2 – 4 times a year, depending on how the farm operates. A sample of pigs, from a range of pens is assessed each visit. The total number assessed per year depends on how many finisher places a farm has. The veterinarian carrying out the assessment will be trained in how to calculate the appropriate sampling numbers.
- For units of 300 finisher places or less, a minimum of 300 pigs should be sampled each year
- For units of 900 finisher places or more, a total of 900 pigs should be sampled per year
- For units of 300-900 finisher places, a representative proportion should be sampled per year
- Some measures require a scan assessment of all pigs in a sample pen, while other measures are recorded from only a sample of individual pigs
How is the data used?
Real Welfare outcomes are reported back to the producers as a rolling total, combining all assessments from the previous 365 days. This means Real Welfare reports on the general welfare status and welfare management of finisher pigs on farm and means that variation between batches, for instance, through disease or extreme weather, is evened out. Such fluctuations are inevitable and do not necessarily reflect the normal situation on that farm.
Assessment outcomes are discussed between the veterinarian and farmer, enabling individual opportunities for improvement to be identified and acted upon, if needed. Real Welfare also allows farmers to benchmark their welfare outcomes against other farms, as well as against their peers.
Red Tractor, QMS and AHDB Pork do not have access to individual farm data. AHDB Pork manages the anonymised data set amalgamated across all units, which enables us to monitor welfare outcomes across the whole industry. Your veterinary surgeon is able to access your unit’s Real Welfare results and should discuss these with you.