Guide to cross compliance in England: 2016

SMR 12: Welfare of pigs

You must protect the welfare of pigs by meeting minimum standards for their care and husbandry.

What you must do

You must

  • make sure that each pig can turn around without difficulty at all times, including while tethered (where this is allowed)
  • make sure that the accommodation for your pigs allows them to:
    • stand up, lie down and rest without difficulty
    • have a clean, comfortable and adequately drained place to rest (with clean, dry bedding, not harmful to the pigs, where appropriate)
    • see other pigs (unless the pig is isolated for veterinary reasons or for farrowing)
    • keep a comfortable temperature
    • have enough space for all of them to lie down comfortably at the same time.
  • make sure that individual stalls or pens meet the minimum size rules except for:
    • a female pig for the period between seven days before the predicted day of her farrowing and the day on which her piglets are weaned (including any piglets fostered by her)
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen for veterinary purposes
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen for the purposes of servicing, artificial insemination or collecting semen
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen while it is fed
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen for the purposes of marking, washing or weighing it
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen while its accommodation is being cleaned
    • keeping a pig in a stall or pen while it is waiting to be loaded for transportation.

The period during which you keep a pig in isolation as above must not be longer than needed for that purpose. The requirements for a minimum size of stall or pen also do not apply if it is one that the pig can enter or leave when it wants. In this case the stall must be entered from another stall or pen where the pig is normally kept, and does comply with the minimum standards.

  • properly clean and disinfect housing, pens, equipment and utensils used for pigs as often as necessary to prevent cross-infection and the build-up of disease-carrying organisms
  • provide flooring for pigs kept in buildings that is:
    • smooth but not slippery
    • suitable for the size and weight of the pigs
    • rigid, even and stable, if there’s no litter
    • designed, constructed and kept so there’s no injury or suffering to the pigs standing or lying on it
  • provide flooring of the correct measurements for openings and slats if you use concrete slatted floors. This applies for all pigs kept in groups. More information on these measurements is in the following table:
Type Definition Maximum width of openings Tolerance Acceptable maximum width of openings Minimum width of slats
Piglet Pig from birth to weaning 11mm No tolerance 11m 50mm
Weaner Pig from weaning to the age of 10 weeks 14mm 10-14mm +/- 2mm 16mm 50mm
Rearing pigs Pig from the age of 10 weeks to slaughter or service 18mm 14-18mm+/- 3mm 21mm 80mm
Gilt Female pig after puberty and before farrowing 20mm 14-20mm+/- 3mm 23mm 80mm
Sow Female pig after the first farrowing 20mm 14-20mm+/- 3mm 23mm 80mm
  • provide artificial lighting of at least 40 lux for at least 8 hours each day, for pigs kept in an artificially lit building
  • give permanent access to enough manipulable material to allow proper investigation and manipulation, for example, straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture, which doesn’t upset the health of your animals
  • take measures to stop fighting which goes beyond normal behaviour; if you keep pigs together, you must separate pigs that show persistent aggression or are victims of aggression
  • make sure that when feeding group-housed pigs, that one of the following applies for each pig:
    • can feed at the same time as the others in the feeding group
    • has continuous access to feed
    • is fed by an automatic feeding system.
  • give all pigs over 2 weeks old a permanent supply of fresh drinking water. You must also meet the rules for the welfare of farmed animals in SMR 13.

You must not:

  • tether pigs at any time unless it is for veterinary purposes. Any tether must be regularly checked and altered to make sure it doesn’t cause pain or injury, and allows the pig to lie down, rest, stand up and groom itself
  • keep pigs in the high temperature/high humidity environment known as the ‘sweat box system’
  • expose your pigs to constant or sudden noise, or levels at or above 85 decibels in any building where they’re kept.

For piglets (pigs from birth to weaning)

You must:

  • give the piglets heat and a dry and comfortable lying area where all of them can rest at the same time, if using a farrowing crate system
  • make sure that part of the total floor where you keep the piglets is big enough to allow the animals to rest together at the same time and is solid, covered with a mat or littered with suitable material
  • give the piglets enough space to suckle without difficulty if you use a farrowing crate . You must not wean piglets from the sow at less than 28 days (unless there’s a risk of harm to the welfare or health of the dam or piglets).

However, you won’t break the rule about weaning piglets if they’re weaned up to 7 days earlier, if you move them to housing which you empty, thoroughly clean and disinfect before you introduce a new group and which is separate from housing where you keep sows.

For sows (female pigs after the first farrowing) and gilts (female pigs intended for breeding, after puberty and before farrowing)

You must make sure that each female pig after service, when kept in groups, has:

  • its minimum allowance of clear floor space. The amount of unobstructed floor space must be at least:
    • 1.64 square metres for each gilt
    • 2.25 square metres for each sow
  • continuous solid floor. If the animals are kept in groups of six or fewer, the unobstructed floor area must be increased by 10%. If the animals are kept in groups of 40 or more, the unobstructed floor area can be reduced by 10%. Part of the floor area must be continuous solid floor:
    • at least 0.95 square metres for each gilt
    • at least 1.3 square metres for each sow Up to 15% of the solid floor area may be reserved for drainage openings.
  • pens of correct size. The sides of the pens must be greater than 2.8 metres in length when there are more than six in the group. The sides of the pens must be at least 2.4 metres in length when there are six or fewer in the group.

You must also:

  • treat pregnant sows and gilts against internal and external parasites, if necessary
  • thoroughly clean pregnant sows and gilts before they’re put in farrowing crates
  • give sows and gilts enough nesting material in the week before expected farrowing (unless it’s not practical because of the slurry system you use)
  • provide a clear area behind the sow or gilt during farrowing
  • provide a way of protecting the piglets, such as farrowing rails, if you keep sows loose in farrowing pens
  • use a feeding system that makes sure each sow or gilt gets enough food even when other pigs are competing for food
  • give all dry pregnant sows and gilts enough bulky or high-fibre food, as well as high-energy food, to meet their hunger and need to chew
  • keep sows and gilts in groups (except between 7 days before the predicted day of farrowing and the day on which the weaning of piglets is complete)

You won’t break the rule about keeping sows and gilts in groups if they’re kept on holdings of fewer than 10 sows if the individual accommodation meets the rules for pig accommodation.

For boars (male pigs after puberty) intended for breeding

You must:

  • place and build boar pens to allow the boars to turn around and to hear, see and smell other pigs
  • give clean resting areas in the boar pens and make sure that the lying area is dry and comfortable
  • make sure that each boar has its minimum allowance of clear floor space. Each adult boar must have at least six square metres of unobstructed floor space. If also used for natural service, the floor area must be at least ten square metres and free of obstacles.

For weaners (pigs from weaning to the age of 10 weeks) and rearing pigs (pigs from the age of 10 weeks until slaughter or service)

You must:

  • make sure that each weaner or rearing pig, kept in groups, has its minimum allowance of clear floor space, as set out in the following table:
Average weight of pigs in the group (kilograms) Minimum unobstructed floor space (square metres)
10 or less 0.15
Greater than 10 but less than or equal to 20 0.20
Greater than 20 but less than or equal to 30 0.30
Greater than 30 but less than or equal to 50 0.40
Greater than 50 but less than or equal to 85 0.55
Greater than 85 but less than or equal to 110 0.65
Greater than 110 1.00
  • put pigs in groups as soon as possible after weaning and keep the groups stable with as little mixing as possible
  • allow the animals to escape and hide from unfamiliar pigs if mixing is necessary. This must be done at as young an age as possible, preferably before or up to a week after weaning.
  • immediately investigate and take appropriate action if there are signs of severe fighting.

You must not:

  • use tranquilising medicines to help with mixing, unless there are exceptional circumstances on the advice of a vet.

More information

You should follow the rules in the ‘Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Pigs’.


Animal and Plant Health Agency: 03000 200 301
Rural Payments Agency: 03000 200 301
Defra helpline: 0345 933 557