July 5, 2021
New Zealand's pork industry warns massive piglet deaths if farrowing crates are banned
Piglets at farms in New Zealand risked getting crushed or trodden on by their mothers if farrowing crates are banned, the country's pork industry said.
This could lead to the death of 60,000 piglets a year.
New Zealand's government is reviewing the use of the crates, where sows are kept before, during and after giving birth, following a High Court ruling last year that some regulations and minimum standards in the Pig Code of Welfare permitting the use of farrowing crates were unlawful.
Opponents said the crates, which allow the pig to stand and lie down but not turn around, are cruel, while the pig industry said they balance the needs of the sow with those of her piglets.
The court directed Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor to consider recommending changes which would see them phased out.
NZ Pork chief executive David Baines told parliament's primary production select committee on July 1 that a phase out of the crates was a "significant concern" for the industry. The organisatiom represents 93 farmers with 637,000 pigs and annual sales of $750 million.
"Internationally, there is no better practice that has been proven to work than some use of the farrowing crates in mating stalls," Baines said. "If we were to have to move away from the current use of farrowing crates for indoor farms, we estimate up to 60,000 piglets would die every year."
He described the crate as a "maternity pen" — which confined a sow for up to 20% of her life — provides protection for the piglets so they wouldn't be crushed, gives them access to the sow's teat so they wouldn't starve and avails a heated area to prevent hypothermia.
He said sows could weigh up to 300kg compared with the average piglet size of about 1.5kg.
In New Zealand, about 55% of pig farming was indoors and Baines said only certain parts of the country are suitable for outdoor farming.
Feedback from farmers suggested between a quarter and a half of them may exit the industry if the crates were banned.
Baines added that the pork industry was concerned that it hadn't been consulted on draft proposals.
"We are the most affected party, presumably we should have sufficient input into the development of those standards, but we feel like we have been excluded from that," he said.