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State of California’s Proposition  12 moves forward

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Producers wishing to comply with California’s voter-enacted standards in Proposition 12 (Prop 12) need to have their operations certified to be able to sell pork products into the Golden State market.

The first step is hiring a certifying agent, and according to Jamee Eggers, producers will find the on-farm inspection portion similar to a common swine industry audit. 

“The auditor will measure pens, verify the square footage available to the pigs and review documentation,” Eggers says.

Eggers is the founder and president of Rafter J Consulting, LLC, specializing in strategic solutions for livestock and food producers. She is also a certifying agent with CloverLeaf Animal Welfare Systems.

Receiving certification

The California Department of Food and Agriculture – the agency charged with regulating the letter of the law of Prop 12 – has a list of accredited certifying agents on its website which producers may contact to get the process rolling.

Just as with a visit from a common swine industry auditor, a certifying agent will not come unannounced.

“They look at all the animal enclosures to make sure sows have 24 square feet per sow and can turn around freely,” Eggers says, referring to the sow space requirement spelled out in California law which was passed in 2018 and went into effect at the first of this year.

Certifying agents also check producers’ records, confirming documentation sows were kept in compliance. 

“This includes reviewing veterinary exemptions for confining sows longer than allowed,” Eggers says. “Also, the records for husbandry practices like heat checking, breeding, etc. and verifying sows aren’t confined longer than six hours in a 24-hour period and not more than 24 hours in a 30-day period to perform those activities.”

Once producers’ facilities and recordkeeping meet the approval of the certifying agent, the producer will receive certification, which is good for one year.

Eggers notes producers who raise pigs under programs such as Humane Certified or Global Animal Partnership will still need to be Prop 12-certified to sell into California.

As of yet, she says there is a mix of U.S. swine producers looking to comply with the California regulations, as well as those who plan to carry on with their current production practices and facilities whether they are Prop 12-compliant or not.

Is Prop 12 better?

California voters brought Prop 12 to a vote in 2018 under the guise requirements set in the language would be better for both welfare and sustainability. 

Research done by Pipestone Veterinary Services shows accomplishing these goals in a Prop 12 system is challenging.

Cara Haden, Pipestone director of animal welfare, presented welfare assessments on three different housing systems – stall, traditional pen and Prop 12 compliant. All three systems have positive and negative aspects. 

Although Prop 12 allows for greater movement and interaction with other sows and the environment, there are some real challenges when it comes to lameness.

The percentage of sows treated for lameness were 3.5 percent in stalls, 7.8 percent in pens and 10.2 percent in Prop 12-compliant housing.

The same trend holds for the percentage of sows culled due to lameness – 0.45 percent, 0.88 percent and 1.2 percent for stall, pen and Prop 12, respectively.

When researchers looked at the percentage of sows that died due to lameness, the same trend line held true – 0.45 percent, 0.56 percent and 1.11 percent, respectively.

“From a lameness standpoint, Prop 12 is certainly not the system we would have chosen as an industry,” Haden says. “Having said this, this is what our customers have asked for, and so we have an obligation to make Prop 12 systems work.”

Pipestone research also looked at the need for injections for both anti-inflammatory and antibiotics, as well as total sow death loss, and the same trend held true in all three investigations, with the Prop 12-compliant housing showing the higher incidences of the need for injections and death loss.

Realizing Prop 12 is not going away, and regardless of what regulations say, animal welfare and health is what matter at the end of the day. 

With this in mind, Haden says Pipestone is dedicated to improving the lameness-related welfare concerns through pen designs, genetic selection and distraction and enrichment.

Kevin Schulz is an editor for The Farmer. This article was originally published in Farm Progress on March 11.

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