It’s an exciting project: stopping docking pigs’ tails. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have even dared try, but now I’ve seen how well the pigs are doing in our new meat-pig barn, I’m ready to take the next step. In the new barn, the pigs are more sociable and relaxed, and growing well. The conditions are therefore right for us to stop docking their tails, as I witnessed on my business trip to Norway last winter. During my trip, the Norwegian pig farmers showed me that tail-docking is no longer a strict necessity. If pigs are calmer and more sociable, the likelihood of tail-biting is drastically reduced.
However, the conditions need to be right, and we are already well on our way to achieving them. The meat-pig barn is ready and the maternity pen won’t be a problem, but when I was in Norway, I realised that our weaning-piglet barn still needed some attention.
After four weeks in the maternity pen, the piglets are taken away from the mother and transferred to a separate barn for six weeks for weaning. This period, when the piglets have just left their mother, is a crucial period in the ‘long-tails project’. In order to eliminate risks from the outset, we decided to also modify this barn and make the modifications according to the same principles as the new barn.
Demolition and reconstruction of rearing barn
To eliminate any risks, we needed to demolish and partly reconstruct the rearing barn. Thanks to funding from Unilever, who put up 50 per cent of the capital for the project, we were able to partly demolish the old barn, which we are now reconstructing. In accordance with our new requirements, the synthetic grilles have been replaced with concrete, and the floor is now made up of forty per cent steel grilles and sixty per cent solid concrete. The concrete sections of the floor can also be heated and cooled as necessary. The feed and water system is also being modified. When the modifications have been completed, the barns will have a circulation pumping system for the water. This way, the water will be circulating at all times, and therefore cooler. Feed and water are kept separate from one another, the pigs are given extra distractions, and we scatter alfalfa hay for them to root in.
I am optimistic about this modernised pig barn, and look forward to seeing the first group of piglets be introduced to it in four weeks’ time. Could this really be the first step towards a future for long-tailed pigs.