Practices in animal husbandry
The pigs are housed in well insulated buildings, which are designed and constructed for pig housing according to strict regulations. These regulations differ by country, and as a result, there exist different housing systems within the HKScan pork chain.
On average, sows give birth for the first at the age of one year. After a gestation period of 115 days, 14–16 piglets are born. On average, a sow has a birth interval of 155 days, which means that she gives birth 2.35 times per year. The piglets stay, on average, four weeks with their mother. After weaning, the piglets are housed in nursery sections, where they remain until they are around 30 kg. Most of the piglets reach this weight at the age of 10–11 weeks. At 30 kg, the piglets are transported to the finishing farms where they stay until they reach 115–120 kg. The finisher pigs gain slaughter weight within 5,5–6 months.
The sows are housed according to local regulations, which are in line with the EU standards. In Finland and Estonia, the sows are housed in individual stalls from weaning until four weeks after insemination and from one week before birth until weaning. After the sows are tested for pregnancy, they are moved to the gestation area, where they can move freely for the remainder of the gestation period. According to the Swedish legislation, the sows can move around freely during the insemination, gestation and farrowing phases.
In free farrowing, the sows are able to move and act according to their natural behaviours. However, piglet mortality might rise and piglets can suffer, for example, from the gangrenes of ears and tails, as the sow can trap them. In contrast, the farrowing pen is often cleaner in the traditional cage housing, where the sow cannot move as much. From the animal welfare point of view, there are pros and cons with both systems. HKScan will continue to further develop animal welfare and find out about the possibility of free farrowing also in other countries than Sweden.
At HKScan’s production farms, tail-biting is prevented by offering good living conditions and care, such as sufficient space, enrichment materials, high quality feed and preventive health care.
The nursery and finisher pigs are fed by both dry and liquid feed. Piglets are fed by dry feed automats or by liquid feed in troughs. The majority of the finishers are fed liquid diets in long troughs. Diets consists of local grains and by-products from the ethanol and dairy processing. During the nursery period, the piglets often receive 2–3 different diets so that the nutritional needs of each particular phase are fulfilled. Finishers also often get 2–3 different diets.
Together with its partners, HKScan continuously develops the feeding of the animals. In recent years, focus has been on the use of local protein sources such as beans, meat quality enhancing feeding (rapeseed pork) and gut health supporting feed concepts for sows and piglets. In 2017, HKScan launched a new feed concept for piglets, which creates good conditions for their welfare. In addition, specific feed concepts have been developed for sows and fattening pigs, in cooperation with our feed partners. Pig feed consists of local grains and protein plants, co-products from the food industry and soy. The feed mixture is varied during the different production phases, aiming towards the best growth and welfare for animals.
Read more about pigs and HKScan’s practices from the Corporate Responsibility Fact sheet.
Physical alteration practices
Tail docking is prohibited in Finland and in Sweden. Tail docking is allowed in Estonia only if animal welfare is under threat by tail biting.
Entire boars produce an unpleasant boar taint into the meat which consumers are not used to. Entire males also fight more often than castrated pigs, which causes them wounds, pain and stress. For this reason, all male piglets are castrated surgically in Finland by the farmer during their first week of life. In Finland, producers of HKScan have been required to use pain medication prior to castration since November 2011. All male pigs are castrated in Estonia on the third day after their birth and pain medication is given.
Since 2016, in Sweden, all castrations of male boars are forbidden without local anaesthesia. Other alternatives include vaccination against boar taint or raising boars to slaughter. Only farmers who have received appropriate training are allowed to perform castrations.
Teeth-grinding is not performed as a routine in Finland. Teeth grinding is only allowed if the piglets’ sharp teeth cause the sow problems. The piglets cannot be older than seven days at the time of grinding and it is required by law that the farmers first assess and improve the conditions and management of the pigs. Teeth grinding is not performed in Sweden and Estonia.
Antibiotics and hormones
In all of the HKScan’s pig production countries, the use of antibiotics in the pork chain is strictly supervised by legalised veterinarians and no antimicrobial treatments are used to promote pig growth. The use of antimicrobials is at a low level in comparison with the European and global practices.
Penicillins and Tylosin are the most used groups of antibiotics in both finisher pigs and weaned piglets. The use of third and fourth generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and extended spectrum or long acting macrolides are only allowed based on microbiological diagnosis, bacterial sensitivity testing and, never as the first line treatment.
Read more about antibiotics and HKScan’s practices from the Corporate Responsibility Fact sheet.
The use of hormones for the purpose of growth stimulation is forbidden in all HKScan’s operating countries. Hormones can be used if prescribed by a veterinarian for the induction of parturition, treatment of uterine inertia, stimulation of milk ejection, estrus synchronization or the treatment of fertility problems.
Animal welfare non-conformity
There have been no illegal offences resulting in a fine or penalty within HKScan’s pig production operations in 2017. We strictly follow our methods and practices and, in any case of any deviations, take corrective actions immediately.