Animal health and welfare
Animal health and welfare are fundamental priorities for HKScan and its contract producers. We rank among Europe’s and the world’s top performers in related international evaluations. We are proud of our long track record as a responsible operator and we are committed to continually improving our performance. We welcome and participate in all dialogue concerning animal welfare in order to further improve our performance in this field.
Animal welfare starts with good production conditions and producer know-how
HKScan’s animal sourcing is based on long-term contract production or own production and close collaboration with our producers (Read more: HKScan Agri magazine, only in Swedish). To ensure the best service and responsible production in all our market areas, the structure of the Animal Sourcing and Producer Services organization was renewed in spring 2016. With the new operating model, local and regional know-how and competence can be applied more effectively to improve our producer collaboration and producer services.
We offer our producers training and advice in matters such as animal feed planning, animal health care and the design of new production facilities. Animal welfare is prioritized in all our operations. For example, the open stable models we offer our producers promote healthy living conditions for the animals and good working conditions for farm workers. We also provide consultation services to producers in the design and construction of livestock facilities and in the start-up of production. In Finland, we offer specific models for cattle, pig and poultry production. In Sweden we recently began planning a new standard model for sow pig farms that incorporates the best tried-and-tested solutions applied in Finland and Sweden.
Our policy on tail docking offers a good example of our animal welfare efforts. In Finland and Sweden, for example, pig tails are not docked because tail biting is exceptionally rare thanks to the effort we invest in animal care and the upkeep of favourable living conditions. Our pig pens are more spacious than required by EU regulations and there is plenty of room for pigs to move about in the pens. The pens normally stay clean because the floor heating and ventilation are designed in such a way as to steer the animals to urinate and defecate only in a certain area of the pen. Materials like straw, hay, wood chips, sawdust and peat provide stimuli for the animals, along with various chew toys, such as wood blocks, balls and ropes.
Producer wellness is also our priority
The wellness of our contract producers is instrumental to good animal welfare. We organize seminars offering our producers new, relevant information and an easy way to network with colleagues. In January 2016, our contract producers from Finland and Sweden convened for the first time on a producer cruise.
In autumn 2016, we launched various wellbeing events for our contract producers. The first was a wellness day for poultry producers. The theme was also highlighted in special wellness clinics offered in conjunction with our producer seminars; at these clinics, HKScan’s occupational health nurse and occupational health manager answered questions from producers concerning their health. The participants also had the opportunity to check their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The wellness clinics were well-attended, indicating that health is a topic of personal interest to our producers.
HKScan upholds a tradition of presenting Producer of the Year awards in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The nomination criteria include excellence in animal welfare, motivation for continual improvement, and good collaboration with HKScan. The Finnish producers of the year are presented on HKScan Agri’s YouTube channel (in Finnish only). The winners in Sweden are featured in the Swedish edition of the HKScan Agri magazine.
Focus on proper animal handling
One of our focus areas in 2016 was the proper handling of livestock. In late 2015, we initiated cooperation with an animal behaviour and handling specialist who audited all HKScan cattle slaughterhouses in Finland and Estonia during 2016.The audits covered pre-slaughter animal handling practices, conditions at the slaughterhouses and their plans for improving animal welfare. Similar audits have been out also at HKScan’s other slaughterhouses, which engaged the services of external animal behaviour experts specializing in pigs, cattle, poultry and sheep.
During autumn HKScan’s animal transporters and slaughterhouse employees were provided with follow-up training on cattle handling in Finland. The courses were taught by the Australian animal handling expert Sophie Atkinson, who enlightened the participants on low-stress handling of cattle by reinforcing their instinctive behaviour patterns.
Animal transporter training is part of our continuous improvement efforts. Transports are regularly monitored by authorities and veterinarians. The low-stress and correct handling of animals during transportation is important to ensure animal welfare, employee safety and high-quality meat.
The new piglet transport vehicles adopted in Finland early this year are designed to promote good animal welfare and healthy conditions by employing the latest solutions in the industry, which also offer improved biosecurity.
Animal welfare audits are performed regularly by authorities and other experts as an integral part of HKScan’s routine. Authorized veterinarians are present at all our production facilities on a daily basis, and our operations are subjected to continuous internal and external audits. In 2016, surveillance cameras were installed at our slaughterhouses in Finland and Estonia, and additional training on animal handling was arranged for the personnel.
Animal health is our top priority
Resistance to antibiotics and the weakening effectiveness of antibiotics in the treatment of diseases is a global concern. The most effective way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics only in the treatment of diagnosed diseases, both in animals and human beings. In domestic animal production, all measures taken in the different phases of the animal production chain have a direct impact on animal welfare and health.
Farms owned by HKScan or by its contract producers do not use antibiotics preventively or to promote animal growth. All usage of antibiotics is carefully monitored: they are administered only when prescribed by a veterinarian to treat sick animals. The use of hormones is prohibited.
In all of HKScan’s production countries, the use of antibiotics in the treatment of animals is at a significantly lower level than in other European countries on average. Our measures to promote animal welfare and prevent animal diseases have yielded good results. Our goal is to maintain the low usage level of antibiotics and to achieve even better results – without endangering the welfare of our animals.
Read more in our Corporate Responsibility Fact Sheets
We actively monitor the incidence of infectious animal diseases and their potential impacts on the animal production chain. Our producers, production advisors and veterinarians make every possible effort to prevent diseases from spreading. The quality and hygiene practices we apply on our home markets have proven to be very successful in the prevention of salmonella, for example. When African swine fever (ASF) was detected widely in wild boars in Estonia and South Europe, we successfully prevented its spread to pig farms in Estonia (Read more: HKScan Agri magazine, only in Swedish). ASF has not been detected in Finland or Sweden.
High pathogenic avian flu (H5N8) was detected in 2016 in wild birds in HKScan’s production countries. Thanks to the effective protective measures undertaken by the authorities in these countries, the spread of avian flu was prevented. Avian flu has not spread to any of HKScan’s poultry farms.