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Health, welfare and production problems in organic suckling piglets

Abstract

Health, welfare and production problems of organic suckling piglets are poorly known due to a lack of information from commercial farms and the paucity of experiments run under organic standards. However, taking into account the accumulated knowledge on the biology of pigs, the few results obtained in organic pig production and those from conventional practice when characteristics are close to those of organic farms, it is possible to identify the main health and welfare problems encountered by suckling piglets in organic farms as well as the hazards for such problems. The main problems concern congenital defects, mortality, hunger and thirst, cold stress, health disorders, low growth rate, predation (when outdoors), pain and health consequences of castration. Since mortality, hunger, thirst, low growth rate, chilling and health disorders are highly interrelated, the hazards for these problems were analysed simultaneously. The present review points out several hazards that can be related either to the animal's characteristics, to the housing system or to the management. Among the most important hazards are a high litter size, elevated sow parity, excessive or insufficient ambient temperature, draught, grouping sows during lactation, insufficient protection against predators and degraded pastures for outdoor farms. Issues with particular importance for organic production concern the microclimate surrounding new born piglets, the hygiene management, the selection of genotypes adapted to organic farming and the supervision of animals around birth. On the other hand, piglets from organic farms benefit from large space, long lactation and environmental enrichment that allow them to perform their natural behaviour in good conditions.

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Acknowledgments

The present text was written within the framework of the Corepig project which was one (project no 1904) of the eight research projects selected for transnational funding by the partners of the CORE Organic ERA-net project (Coordination of European Transnational research in organic Food and Farming, EU PF6 project no 011716). The authors gratefully acknowledge the national funders for their financial support as well as L. Canario (INRA Toulouse, France) for her critical review of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Armelle Prunier.

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Prunier, A., Lubac, S., Mejer, H. et al. Health, welfare and production problems in organic suckling piglets. Org. Agr. 4, 107–121 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13165-013-0052-0

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Keywords

  • Environment
  • Organic
  • Lactation
  • Growth
  • Mortality