REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — After several hours of intense discussion and deliberation, the swine subcommittee for the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board decided to remove an exemption in its recommendations, that would have allowed existing swine producers to expand their stall-based facilities beyond 2025.
The subcommittee’s proposal, which will be presented to the full board in upcoming meetings, still allows gestation stall use up until 2025, and thereafter, if it’s done from post weaning to “a period of time that seeks to maximize embryonic welfare and allows for the confirmation of pregnancy.”
And, they may be used after 2025 if the circumstance could jeopardize the swine’s welfare, such as an injured, frail, thin or aggressive animal.
The subcommittee had previously considered allowing existing swine producers to expand their stall-based operations indefinitely, while requiring new producers to adopt “alternative housing” (not gestation stalls).
However, several members of the subcommittee voiced concern that such provision could put new producers at a competitive disadvantage, since they would not be permitted to use the same practices as existing producers.
Existing producers will be allowed to replace existing facilities in the case of a catastrophic event until 2025, in case of fire, flooding, wind or a building collapse.
The document also stipulates swine space requirements, requiring sows and boars in stalls or pens be able to lie down without having to rest their heads on a raised feeder and without, at the same time, having their rear quarters coming in contact with the back of the stall.
Also, the swine must be able to stand without its back touching the top of the stall or pen.
Although some activist organizations have portrayed stall use for swine in a negative light, the subcommittee discussed multiple reasons why it is necessary, especially in certain circumstances and periods of the sow’s life.
Care board member Bill Moody said he was skeptical of keeping sows in stalls when he came to the board. But after he saw how it’s done, and why, he had a change of mind.
“They’re probably not as onerous as they’re made out to be,” he said.
He commented on a somewhat baffling series of events that have shaped his approach to stall use, including the compromise reached in June with the Humane Society of the United States and Ohio’s farm leaders.
Moody said he was “pretty well ingrained that they’re (stalls) a good thing,” but now finds himself having to weigh terms of the agreement, as well.
State Veterinarian Tony Forshey said stall housing has proven best for the sows, despite what’s often portrayed.
“The welfare of the animal is much better in a stall than it is in group housing,” he said. That’s just the way it is. If you really want to do something humane and well-being (for the swine), you’ll leave them in stalls.”
Dick Isler, executive vice president of Ohio Pork Producers Council, encouraged the subcommittee to continue gathering research, saying research will answer some of the questions about stall housing that still remain.
Tim Amlaw, a subcommittee member who represents American Humane Association, defended the agreement as something reasonable, and good for the industry.
“I don’t see anything in what was agreed upon that is making your (subcommittee) job any more difficult,” he said.
Jeff Wuebker, a member of the board, said the subcommittee needs to decide and present its own recommendation to the board. Because if it doesn’t, someone else will.
“All of us need to realize that the reality of Ohio is here,” he said. “The laws that are in our state allow anyone to bring anything they want to the ballot.”
The final standards will be up to the board to decide, but Wuebker said the committee has the responsibility to reach a “clear direction” for the swine industry, and defend that to the board.