Health monitoring of finishing pigs by secondary data use : a longitudinal analysis
Background: In Germany, animal welfare has become an increasingly important issue. Since 2006, German legislation demands self-monitoring of animal welfare by farmers, but there is a lack of prescribed indicators for governmental monitoring. Since recording of the health status through examinations on individual farms requires many resources, secondary data use is obvious. Therefore, this study deals with the overall evaluation and utilization of existing production data from the German pork production. Performance data and information on antibiotic usage and meat inspection were used for a benchmarking system of animal health in finishing pigs. Results: Seven health scores and one total score were evaluated for 184 finishing pig herds on semi-annual basis between July 2017 and June 2019, based on the health indicators mortality, average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, treatment frequency, respiratory lesions, exterior lesions and animal management. In preparation, the selected health indicators were brought to the same scale and skewed data were transformed to build scores (MOR, ADG, FCR, TF, RESP, EXT and MANG). A differentiated analysis was carried out for three classes of initial body weight regarding to farmers’ fattening management strategies. Conclusions: The present study shows that existing production data of German finishing pigs are usable for welfare monitoring. However, preparatory editing steps are crucial. The total score can only be an estimate of health status because partly bad or good performance could be disguised. It has also been demonstrated, that relative benchmarking is suitable for depicting temporary fluctuations in the investigated collective.