Skip to main content
Report, 2011

Epidemiological study concerning the characteristics of organic pig farming in selected European countries

Sundrum, Albert; Goebel, Amke; Bochicchio, Davide; Bonde, Marianne; Bourgoin, Aude; Cartaud, Gérald; Dietze, Klaas; Dippel, Sabine; Gunnarsson, Stefan; Hegelund, Lene; Leeb, Christine; Lindgren, Kristina; Lubac, Stanislas; Prunier, Armelle; Wiberg, Sofia Elisabet


Literature reviews (see also report of WP1) revealed that there is limited information on the health and welfare of sows in organic production systems. Therefore, interviews and on-farm assessments were conducted in a total of 101 organic pig farms in different European countries. The objectives were to gain knowledge about the current farm and management conditions and the health status of organic pigs in Europe and to identify possible risk factors and constraints that could be considered when trying to improve animal health status. The questionnaire comprised a total number of 215 questions, covering housing conditions, management routine and feeding regime as well as preventive, hygienic and therapeutic health measures and available data about the animal health status. Participating countries were: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden. 66 farms kept at least one age group of pigs outdoors while 35 farms kept their pigs exclusively indoors, for the most part with a concrete outside run. On average, 74.6 (± 106.6) sows were housed per farm. Housing conditions on organic pig farms were characterised by a large heterogeneity within and between European countries. The variation was further increased by the fact that some organic farms were dealing simultaneously with different housing systems for pigs of the same life stage. Concerning the portion of bought-in-feedstuffs in relation to the total feed consumed, 52 farms indicated that more than 50 % of the feed ration consisted of home-grown feed. 43 farmers declared that less than 50 % of the feed originated from the farm whereas only 6 farms produced 100 % of their feed themselves. In general, knowledge of the farm manager about the quality of feed ingredients used and the composition of the diets were low. Only few farmers made use of multiple phase-feeding in the different life stages of the pigs. There is reason to suspect that the feeding regimes were suboptimal on the majority of organic pig farms, leaving ample room for easily feasible improvements. Genotypes used on the maternal and paternal side differed widely between countries. Artificial insemination was carried out on 53.9 ± 38.0 % of the investigated farms. 20 farms favoured natural service while 6 % of the farms used artificial insemination only. With respect to the health management, some farms made comprehensive use of the various options such as quarantine, vaccination or parasite and rodent control, wheras many farmers neglected the implementation of preventive measures, including appropriate hygiene and disinfection measures. On the majority of organic farms with indoor housing, the options for disinfection were hindered by the fact that many farms were not able to implement an all-in all-out concept as they did not possess partitioned buildings which could have been cleaned and disinfected separately without the risk to contaminate pigs in the same building. 82 % of the farms received data on pathological findings of fatteners from the abattoir, whereas only 54 farms had abattoir data on sows available. In correspondence with the large variation in the living conditions for pigs, also production data and mortality rates differed widely between organic pig farms. According to the estimation by the farmer concerning the occurrence of selected animal health problems, mortality of suckling piglets and weaners and weaning diarrhoea were named as the most relevant diseases problems.5 Although dedicated to the same minimum standards, organic pig farming does not provide the same living conditions or a homogenous outcome of animal health parameters. Thus, organic standards do not automatically lead to a high status of animal health but, like all systems, also depends on the quality of management. Differences in management practices, restrictions in the availability of resources (labour time, financial budget etc.), and a lack of feedback and control mechanism within the farm system appears to be a main reason for the substantial variation between farms

Published in

CORE Organic Project Series Report
Publisher: Coordination of European Transnational Research in Organic Food

    SLU Authors

    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Animal and Dairy Science
      Veterinary Science

      Permanent link to this page (URI)