Ferrari, P., Ulrici, A., Barbari, M. 2021. Analysis of housing risk factors for the welfare of lean and heavy pigs in a sample of European fattening farms. Animals 11(11), 3221.
Pig welfare is affected by housing conditions, the minimum requirements of which are set up by EU legislation. Animal and non-animal-based measures are useful indicators to investigate housing risk factors for pig welfare. An observational study on 51 pig farms in seven EU countries, aimed at investigating housing risk factors for the welfare of finishing pigs, showed body weight and presence of bedded solid floored resting area (BED) identifying three clusters of farms. Farms with BED were featured by no or limited tail docking, larger availability of manipulable materials and lower number of pigs per farm and per annual work unit. In these farms, less skin and ear lesions were found, compared with lean pigs of farms without BED, which were characterized by lower pig space allowance, mortality rate and medication cost. In farms without BED, heavy pigs were featured by more space per pig, more pigs per drinker and higher mortality rate and medication cost per pig, compared to lean pigs. No statistical difference in tail lesions was found between the three farm clusters, although tail docking was performed in all farms without BED and not performed on most farms with BED.