Rearing pigs with intact tails would require both animal welfare and investment subsidies from the national Exchequer, Teagasc’s national pig conference heard on Tuesday.

Pig production adviser Johannes Vugts of Finnish processor HKScan, the fifth largest food manufacturer in Europe, stated that farmers in Finland receive welfare subsidies of €21/finishing place per year for rearing pigs with intact tails there.

The €21 is paid out when fewer than 5% of pigs presented for slaughter show lesions.

Keeping sows in free farrowing pens pays Finland’s pig farmers €250/sow per year in subsidies.

Animal welfare friendly housing investments in Finland are also grant aided at a rate of 30%, rising to 40% for young farmers.

Vugts explained that Finland was allowed to keep pig production subsidies when it joined the EU. The country shifted these annual payments towards animal welfare to allow them to continue after joining.

“The only way to get there is to get money, and I see two ways: the Dutch model where the NGOs have squeezed down the supermarkets with the barrel against the head to pay more and to commit themselves to the star programme, or the government gives subsidies,” he said.

The adviser suggested that the challenges posed by rearing pigs with intact tails can change over time and when one contributor to biting appears to be solved, another one will crop up.

Recent research from Finland points to genetics as a contributing factor which can crop up when others are addressed, such as diet, housing and providing enrichment materials.