News from the National Pork Board

Swine welfare projects and priorities

The producer-led Animal Welfare Committee allocates checkoff funding for further scientific understanding of welfare in production practices. The nine projects funded in 2002 are the following:

  • Enhancing sow welfare with high fiber diets and frequent feeding. (University of Minnesota)
  • Effect of weaning age and commingling after the nursery phase on humoral and behavioral indicators of well-being and on growth performance. (University of Arkansas)
  • Comparison of housing systems for gestating sows. (University of Minnesota)
  • Well-being of early weaned piglets: assessment of seasonal effects on performance behavior and physiology. (University of Manitoba)
  • Factors affecting the behavior of early-weaned piglets. (University of Guelph)
  • Effect of space allowance on group-housed dry sows. (University of Illinois)
  • Characterization of sow longevity and the developmental factors that influ-ence it. (Michigan State University)
  • Developing criteria for timely euthanasia decision-making. (North Carolina State University)
  • Development of computer templates to economically assess alternatives to individual housing of gestating sows. (Ohio State University)

Priorities for studies in 2003

Sow gestation housing: Comparison of sow housing methods, and economic assessment of alternatives to current production practices and procedures.

Sow longevity: Evaluate factors affecting sow longevity in the breeding herd.

Space requirements for swine: Validation of welfare criteria used to evaluate space requirements for swine at all stages of production in various facilities and the relationship of these requirements to production economics.

Handling and transport: Well-being of recently weaned pigs during transport and definition of space requirements during transport at all stages of production.

Production practices: Define appropriate measures of well-being for recently weaned piglets, and evaluate well-being during routine production procedures.

On-farm euthanasia: Develop criteria for timely euthanasia decision making, and measure the impact that euthanasia methods have on their timely application and on subsequent husbandry attitude of workers.

Swine Welfare AssuranceSM program

The Pork Checkoff is currently developing the Swine Welfare AssuranceSM (SWA) program, previously called the "Swine Welfare Indexing System." This is a proactive approach to animal welfare designed
to match potential guidelines set by the Food Marketing Institute and the Nation-al Council of Chain Restaurants. The SWASM program is educational and audit-based, allowing producers to evaluate welfare on their farms at designated control points. The current focus is sow gestation; however, producers on the Pork Checkoff Animal Welfare Committee intend the program to apply to all sectors of pork production, from gestation to finishers. Pilot tests of the SWASM program are being conducted this fall, with a projected release by the end of this year.

Porcine Circovirus Factsheet

A Swine Health Factsheet on porcine circovirus, funded by the Pork Checkoff, can be found at the National Pork Board's web site,, under "Science and Technology."

Pork Quality and Safety Summit

The Pork Quality and Safety Summit, sponsored by Checkoff funding, was held in Des Moines, Iowa, in June, hosting approximately 200 producers, researchers, and government and industry professionals. Sessions covered topics including traceability in the meat production chain and food security, pork quality, and pre- and post-harvest pork safety. Proceedings of the summit have been sent to US members of AASV. For more information on pork
quality, safety, or antimicrobial use, visit, under "Science and Technology," or contact the National Pork Board at 515-223-2600.

Checkoff-funded research on West Nile virus effects in swine

The Pork Checkoff Swine Health Committee has approved funding for West Nile virus (WNV) research in pigs. West Nile virus is a zoonotic disease that causes encephalitis in humans. Mosquitoes that have become infected by feeding on infected wild birds can transmit the virus to people, animals, and other birds.

West Nile virus is a member of the Flaviviridae family of viruses. Another member of that family, Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus, is known to cause reproductive failure in swine. Japanese encephalitis has not been found in the United States. In previously published studies on WNV in swine, animals were co-infected with JE, providing no information on whether WNV infection causes clinical signs in pigs. Since WNV is becoming endemic in the United States, the Swine Health Committee appropriated funding to investigate the effect of WNV in pigs, specifically, whether pigs become viremic after exposure to WNV, whether they serve as an amplifying host for the virus, and whether they display clinical signs. The research is currently underway and preliminary results should be available before the end of 2002.