Pork pain management rules begin July 1

All castration and tail docking will require pain management, a change the industry says it’s ready for

Another component of the updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs is about to come into effect, with the deadline to begin use of anesthetic and analgesics when castrating or docking tails set for July 1.

While nearly all hog farmers are prepared for the new pain control requirements, a recent telephone town hall hosted by Alberta Pork showed many producers are still concerned about the amount of time the new procedures will take. A quick poll showed that 43 per cent of participants were most concerned about how long it would take to administer pain control, compared to 17 per cent of respondents who saw the cost of the drugs as most concerning.

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Mark Flynn manages animal care programs for the Manitoba Pork Council and said the amount of time pain control takes depends on how it is administered.

“There is basically three different ways to administer it,” he said. “You can administer it through injection, you can administer it through an oral drench route, where you squirt medication into the mouths of piglets, or through topical application.”

Producers should work with their herd veterinarians to determine which application is right for their operation if they haven’t already, he said.

“But most of the producers have already talked to their herd veterinarian about pain control options,” said Flynn, adding the change in regulation has been years in the making.

The new code was first officially released in the spring of 2014, after three years of consultation and two additional months of public feedback. It also moves the industry towards open sow housing and enrichment and replaces a previous version penned in 1993.

Producers will need a prescription from their herd veterinarian whatever method they choose to use for pain control.

“I believe there are four or five non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that could be used in a pain control setting, and a lot of the potential for pain is derived from inflammation post surgery, so those drugs would be good choices and they can work with their vets on that,” Flynn said.

Health Canada has yet to approve any pain control claims on any medication specifically for soft tissue surgeries like castration, but the absence of that claim doesn’t mean the drugs are ineffective, said Flynn.

“There are products in development where they are looking for claims, specifically for pain control for castration, and there has been some stuff developed for cattle, so there are options out there for pain control, but it would require a veterinary prescription to be administered,” he said.

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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