Synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group housed pigs and chickens


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Continuation of GroupHouseNet research coordination and dissemination

Report of the GroupHouseNet Stakeholder and End-user Meeting June 27th-29th, Izmir, Turkey: Stakeholder efforts to prevent damaging behaviour in laying hens and pigs

Reducing damaging behaviour in laying hens and pigs, such as feather pecking and tail biting is a challenge for many farmers. These topics have been researched for many years. A lot of information is available online, but does this reach the right people? How one can disseminate knowledge that will actually be used was the main topic for discussion at a recent meeting of COST Action GroupHouseNet in Izmir, Turkey.

Getting results out to the sector

Several EU countries are working for a better application of the legislation which bans tail docking of pigs on a routine basis and discourages beak trimming of laying hens. This generates a need for information on alternative methods for preventing and controlling damaging behaviour. Much of this information is already available online but not everyone is aware of this. For example, the European Commission provides videos of commercial farms in Finland and Italy that show best practice, having successfully stopped tail docking []. The videos are available in eight different languages. The FareWellDock project has produced factsheets on different aspects of tail docking and on how to reduce the risk of tail biting, also in multiple languages []. These give information about prevention and control of tail biting and are aimed to help farmers, but do these reach the sector, and how can the impact of current knowledge in the sector be improved through additional dissemination efforts that can be supported through GroupHouseNet? That was the focus of our recent GroupHouseNet Stakeholder and Enduser meeting.

Involving the complete chain

Fifty stakeholders and scientists, representing 20 countries in Europe, gathered at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey for three days of knowledge sharing and discussions in June. All with the same ultimate goal: to reduce damaging behaviour in pork and poultry production in the EU. To ensure that all levels in the value chain were represented, the network had invited non-governmental organizations (NGO), industry, and management experts. The meeting started with presentations about challenges and practical solutions related to damaging behaviour. Miguel Angel Higuera of Copa Cogeca, a European farmer association [], presented the results of an EU-wide survey that revealed that 95% of the farmers tail dock their pigs. He mentioned the importance of involving and informing the sector early in the development of solutions to reduce tail biting.

Great diversity within EU

The challenge is to identify which information is appropriate, and in which format, in each country. There is a large diversity between EU member states in farming systems, climate and management, and therefore also in the solutions needed. In some countries such as in Finland and Switzerland tail docking is already forbidden; or has never been allowed (Sweden and Norway). In other countries much more effort on a basic level is still needed, starting with information about the causality of damaging behaviour. One outcome of the meeting is that GroupHouseNet members will translate available advisory materials to their local language and that two short films will be produced on preventing tail biting and feather pecking.

Upgrade your knowledge

A lot of information is available, but how much actually reaches the sector will depend on the type and quantity of media coverage and the engagement of farm advisors and veterinarians in informing producers. Farmers can also find a lot of practically applicable information themselves. We provides links to some of the main sources of information. In the meanwhile, members of GroupHouseNet continue their effort in making resources available across countries. To stay up to date, have a look at the GroupHouseNet website [], where all information materials are being collected.

Meeting minutes

Presentations from the meeting

1. Welcome, by Andrew Janczak

2. Problems and solutions for injurious pecking in hens - a United Kingdom NGO perspective

3. Research on risk factors and prevention of damaging behaviour in laying Hens, Elske de Haas

4. Update from Copa Cogeca, including a survey of producers

5. Information from the European Commission