Pig management and welfare in organic systems

Animal welfare is fundamental to organic farming.

The minimum requirements for managing organic herds are listed in standards issued by accredited Australian Certification Organisations (ACOs).

Animal welfare code of practice

Organic pig farmers need to comply with the pig welfare code.

Certified organic pigs must be treated in certain ways and live within your certification organisation's certification standard throughout their entire lives.

Medicines and treatments

Vaccine treatment of pigs is strictly controlled. Vaccines may only be used for specific diseases – where the law requires it, or where a disease cannot be controlled by other management practices. Withholding periods are also longer than for non-certified farms.

Antibiotic drugs must not be used on certified animals. Certification standards list all the treatments that are prohibited or restricted on organic farms.

Housing and living conditions

Pigs must be raised in a free-range system, with free access to soil and pasture and space for normal social interaction.

You must provide your organic herd with an acceptable level of housing and living conditions, including:

  • housing that protects pigs from rain, wind, heat and cold
  • smooth flooring, but not slippery
  • insulation, heating, cooling and ventilation, and air circulation
  • safe dust levels, temperature, humidity and gas concentrations
  • floor space of at least 3m2 per mature pig.

Bedding areas

Bedding areas should contain sufficient litter material, and where edible bedding material is used, it must be from certified sources. Farrowing cages are not allowed, and farrowing areas must have a minimum space of 1m2 /100kg live weight.

Prohibited treatment

These practices are prohibited:

  • tail docking
  • teeth clipping and grinding
  • permanent nose-ringing of sows, gilts and boars.

Finishing areas

Finishing areas, whether on or off the farm, must also be certified. Certification standards list strict rules about mingling of certified and uncertified pigs.

Organic pig feeds

Organic farms cannot use feeds containing any kind of:

  • synthetic nitrogen compound
  • urea
  • growth promotants
  • stimulants
  • appetisers or solvent extracted feed.

Any feed brought onto a certified organic farm must be from certified sources. On farms that are in the process of converting to organic, a proportion of feeds must be from certified sources. Suckling piglets should only be given natural milk, preferably maternal.

Transport and handling

Transport of animals between properties, or to markets or abattoirs, must minimise stress on pigs and prevent social disharmony by keeping groups or sexes separate.

Certification standards provide rules on the length of journeys, and the conditions for spelling areas. A certified operator must provide transport and handling equipment.