Today we have visited a Hy-Care pig production unit in Bladel. Hy-Care stands for hygiene and care, which are the two focal points for the ultramodern pig farm. On the farm, which is still in a prototype phase, pigs live in plastic containers. The containers are transported to the farmer on a sort of conveyor belt. In this way, issues such as castration, tail docking, applying ear tags and injections are controlled in a central location. The piglets come to one central place to have everything done rather than the worker having to step in and out of all the different fixed pens. In addition, almost every week the containers are brought to a “bathroom” , where the manure is discharged. After each round, the containers are cleaned thoroughly in a specially designed machine.
The Hy-Care system may not sound very friendly. However, the extra hygiene measures do have a positive impact on animal welfare compared to standard pig production farms: the pigs are physically healthier, the air quality is better and drinking water is cleaner compared to regular pig pens. From the Animal Welfare Quality research, with which pig welfare is measured, it appears that Hy-Care pigs score 10 points higher than regular pigs (71 compared to 61 points) in terms of welfare. Nonetheless, major animal welfare problems, such as inadequate space, chronic boredom, no flight options and restricting movement of sows with piglets exist. Eyes on Animals hopes that Schippers, the developer of the Hy-Care pig-pens, will look for ways to make the Hy-Care containers more friendly to the behavioral needs of the animals.
We would like to thank Victor, Han and Mark very much for the detailed explanation of the Hy-Care system, for their hospitality and the tour of the Hy-Care pig system.