Criteria

Livestock owners that want to participate in the Animal Welfare Initiative must implement certain animal welfare criteria. These criteria have been developed by experts from commerce, science and animal welfare and they go beyond the legal requirements. There are certain essential requirements that each livestock owner must implement and that have been adapted again for the 2021-2023 programme. The livestock owners receive an animal welfare payment depending on the number of animals they own. This payment should cover the expenses incurred by the implementation of the criteria.

Pig production
Piglet rearing
Sow farming
Poultry farming
Basic criteria
A prerequisite for livestock owners that want to join the Animal Welfare Initiative is participation in the QS scheme. As a quality assurance system, the QS scheme defines strict manufacturing and marketing criteria along the entire value chain for fresh food, including meat. As part of the inspections for the Animal Welfare Initiative, a livestock owner must prove that they have implemented certain basic criteria from the QS scheme, e.g. regarding humane farming, hygiene and animal health. Their participation in the QS scheme obliges them to comply with these criteria.
Antibiotics monitoring
For all participating poultry and pig farms, the use or administration of antibiotics is recorded in a private antibiotics database managed by QS (Qualität und Sicherheit GmbH). This monitoring creates a data set that allows livestock owners and veterinarians to identify any need for action and introduce reduction strategies if necessary. Complying with the criteria of the Animal Welfare Initiative, e.g. providing up to 40% more space than is prescribed by law or offering roughage or additional manipulable material, can actively contribute to improving animal health. The use of antibiotics is only permitted if an animal falls ill and if they are prescribed by a veterinarian.
Shed climate check
The annual shed climate check is one of the obligatory essential requirements of the Animal Welfare Initiative for pig farmers. The check is carried out by specially trained experts. They inspect all ventilation systems in the shed complex and evaluate the air quality, check for possible harmful gases and the air temperature. The optimal conditions for the animals depend on their age. For example, piglets need to be kept a higher ambient temperature than adult pigs. Therefore, there are different climate control regulators, such as heat lamps or farrowing nests, which also have to be inspected on a regular basis.
Drinking water check
The annual drinking water check is another obligatory essential requirement for pig farmers participating in the Animal Welfare Initiative and is carried out by specially trained experts. They test the drinking water according to defined chemical and microbiological parameters. In order to do this, drinking water samples from the sheds are analysed by specialist laboratories. Good quality drinking water plays a crucial role when it comes to the health and welfare of the animals.
Additional (organic) manipulable material
The animals must be provided with toys to satisfy their instinct to play. With pigs, the toys must be made from natural materials such as wood, sisal and natural rubber. They could be balls, ropes or logs, for example. For poultry, the material provided must be changeable and edible. This could be straw, hay or pecking stones, for example.
Roughage
Pigs should always be given roughage, such as straw, hay or bran, in addition to their regular feed. This crude fibre-rich feed can promote the animal’s health.
Daylight
Farms that participate in the Animal Welfare Initiative must ensure that the sheds have a minimum amount of exposure to daylight, even though there are currently no laws in place that regulate the amount of daylight for animals.
Slaughter findings programme
So that livestock owners can evaluate and compare the well-being and health of their animals for slaughter even better in the future, findings from slaughtered animals are recorded and indexed centrally. The aim of this is to establish an animal welfare index so that livestock owners can improve the conditions in which their animals live.
Purchase of AWI piglets
Piglet farmers who either do not raise their own sows or do not yet collaborate with a sow farmer associated with the Animal Welfare Initiative must ensure that they only source their piglets from one or several AWI sow farmer(s) directly or via livestock traders or livestock marketing organisations.
Health plan
Sow and piglet rearing farms must maintain a health plan in accordance with parameters that have been determined specifically for their farm in order to document the health of sows and piglets during their development, as well as any losses.
More space
The animals on participating farms must have at least 10% more space available than is legally required. The livestock owners must reduce the stocking density in the shed accordingly.
Purchase of chicks
Broiler and turkey farmers must purchase chicks from hatcheries that have been classed as eligible for supply by the QS.
Footpad health
To keep the footpads of broilers and turkeys healthy, the livestock owner must take care to ensure that the floor is covered with dry, loose, soft bedding. This allows the animals to continue to behave naturally by dust bathing, pecking and scratching.
Pre-destocking
Some of the broilers are raised for ten to twelve days less than the others. As such, these animals are smaller and suitable for use as grilling chickens (or grillers), for example. So that this does not cause any unnecessary restlessness or any other disturbances for the rest of the flock, the livestock owner must proceed with the pre-destocking particularly carefully and in accordance with certain guidelines.
Training of livestock owners
Raising livestock is a very complex and multi-layered responsibility. So that the livestock owners can bear this responsibility, they must always stay up-to-date with the latest technical developments in the industry and regularly take part in further training sessions. The sessions cover various relevant topics, such as livestock management, animal supply and legal requirements.
Diagnostic data monitoring
So that livestock owners can evaluate and compare the well-being and health of their animals even better, findings from slaughtered animals are recorded centrally. For example, data about the footpad health of poultry can provide information about the conditions in which they are kept. The aim of this is to evaluate selected indicators from the diagnostic data and to establish an animal welfare index to inspect the welfare of the animals. For this purpose livestock owners must themselves also document their observations during the rearing and production. Abattoirs provide further information.