The state and territory governments legislate the minimum welfare requirements for pigs. Many producers go above and beyond these minimum requirements. Regardless, some care and management procedures remain a contentious area of animal welfare.
Elective husbandry procedures are outlined in the Model Code of Practice for Animal Welfare: Pigs. These procedures are carried out only when the health and welfare of pigs is compromised. The Model Code requires pain relief to be administered in certain circumstances. It is important to minimise the likelihood of infection, rather than focusing on treatment after an incident.
Husbandry practices include:
- Castration: Australia is one of the few countries that does not routinely castrate all male pigs. However, it is sometimes necessary to meet consumer requirements. New technologies allow pig producers to avoid physical castration by using a vaccination against boar taint. Boar taint is an offensive odour and/or taste that can be evident in pork from non-castrated male pigs
- Ear notching: this is one of a number of methods used to identify pigs (and other animals). It helps the producer to quickly identify and monitor the growth rate of a pig. Pliers are used to remove a small piece of the ear. Ear notching is not used on all farms
- Teeth clipping: this practice helps to prevent injury to other piglets and udders of nursing sows. Teeth clipping is only done when husbandry issues arise in individual litters of piglets. It is only the very tips of the needle sharp eye teeth that are ever clipped
- Tail docking: some farms may cut a pig’s tail short to prevent pigs biting and eating each other. What starts out as rough play may end up in tail biting down to the pig’s rump. A pig’s tail does not have nerves for most of its length, so farmers only dock the tail where there are no nerves. So when a pig decides to bite another’s tail, the pig being bitten reacts and won’t let other pigs continue to bite it
- Tusk trimming: tusk trimming of boars is necessary where injury to people or other animals is likely to occur. Tusk trimming should be conducted using a special type of wire called embryotomy wire, with the tusk severed cleanly above the gum. The boar should be appropriately restrained, and if necessary, anaesthetised for restraint. Analgesia for the tusk trimming is not required as the tusk does not have sensory nerves.
- Nose ringing: is not a common practice in Australia. However, it may be required as a last resort to prevent adverse impacts to the environment where pigs are kept outside.