Every Day on the Farm
Decades of improvements in daily pig farming practices have resulted in better health and better conditions for both animals and people on the farm. These improvements include robust quality assurance programs, regulations that reinforce best practices on the farm, efforts to educate and train farm workers and managers, and programs to protect the health of animals and humans through better management, tracking and recordkeeping.
Farm Education and Resources
The National Pork Board provides pig farmers with the latest information available on pig care practices that are recommended for safe, humane and efficient pork production. Some resources include Safe Pig Handling training, the Employee Safety Toolkit, Humane Animal Handling training and the On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine handbook. These resources and their use within the industry demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in animal ethics.
Healthy pigs require healthy diets. Pig farmers work with nutritionists to develop animal diets that:
- Are nutritionally balanced and age-appropriate
- Contribute to efficient growth, such as feed and nutrition strategies to enhance the reproductive cycle and health of sows
- Follow proper feed processing and feed biosecurity protocols
Responsible Antibiotic Use
Animals, just like humans, should be cared for and treated when they are sick. In the case of pigs, that may mean medications like antibiotics are necessary, just as they often are for humans. The pork industry has delivered on its three-point antibiotic stewardship plan to promote research, pig farmer education, and consumer and influencer outreach.
Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA® Plus) training and assessment addresses safe and appropriate use of antibiotics. With the vast majority of pig farmers now certified through PQA Plus, and through closer guidance by swine veterinarians, the occurrence of antibiotic residue exceeding regulatory maximums in pork is extremely rare today. The industry also has dedicated more than $6 million over the past two decades to better understand how antibiotic use drives resistance with the goal of identifying new ways to protect the efficacy of these drugs.
These research and stewardship-related efforts are already making an impact. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, domestic sales of all medically important antimicrobials intended for use in food-producing animals decreased by 33% between years 2016 and 2017. Pig farmers are dedicated to identifying new ways to decrease the overall need for antibiotics.
Documentation and Recordkeeping
Accurate measurement provides insights necessary for improvement. Keeping accurate, up-to-date health, safety and environmental records is valuable to run a safe, efficient farm. These records may also be required by a variety of third parties, including the government. Quality assurance programs, such as PQA Plus, require records on employee training, pig medication use, treatment and mortality, vaccinations, visitor logs and biosecurity checklists. For example, maintaining detailed animal identification and medication records plays a crucial role in tracking medicated animals, which can impact food safety.
For decades, pig farmers have used a system to identify and trace pigs in interstate commerce from the last farm of ownership to the point at which they enter a processing facility. To help monitor and contain an incident in the event of an animal disease or foodborne illness outbreak, U.S. hog farmers support national standards for premises identification, animal identification and recordkeeping.
The Swine ID Plan is an example of pork industry-led efforts to enhance pre-processing traceability for animal health purposes. The program includes a traceability system called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which has three key components: premises identification, animal identification and animal tracing. The National Pork Board’s educational campaign to promote the Swine ID Plan has led to the registration of more than 95% of all pig farms.
Worker and Manager Training and Education
The pork industry created several education and training programs to help farmers manage their farms and raise pigs responsibly, in line with We Care ethical principles.
Training and education resources available to managers includes the Certified Swine Manager (CSM) program, which addresses management-level responsibilities and technical knowledge in farm management. CSM candidates must pass an online exam and participate in an on-the-job skills assessment indicating that they have mastered competencies specific to either reproduction or wean-to-finish management.
Resources available to pig farm workers include:
- PQA Plus: Teaches workers to take responsibility for workplace, personal and coworker safety; understand safety and health hazards (slips and falls, needle sticks, lifting, hygiene); handle pigs using knowledge of pig behavior; understand barn, building and machine hazards (hazardous gases, fire, electrical, confined spaces); and be prepared for emergencies (emergency action plan).
- Transportation Quality Assurance: Helps pig transporters, farmers and handlers understand how to safely handle, move and transport pigs.
All U.S. pig farms must comply with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) labor requirements, and farm labor conditions are monitored by the Department of Labor. Immediate family members of farm employers are not covered by these rules.
OSHA was created in 1970 to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Under current OHSA appropriations law, OSHA cannot use appropriated funds to enforce any standard, rule, regulation or order under the OSHA Act, applicable to any person engaged in a farming operation, which employs 10 or fewer employees and does not maintain a temporary labor camp.
Resources such as the Employee Care Toolkit and Employee Safety Toolkit provide the necessary tools to assist farm owners in complying with current regulations. For example, OSHA establishes training requirements for authorized and affected workers where permit required confined spaces (such as manure pits and grain bins) exist on the farm.
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