Around 250 applications have been received from farmers in Lower Saxony, Germany, for the new premium for rearing pigs without tail docking and hens without beak tipping.

With the applications covering almost 700,000 animals in both organic and standard systems among these applications, the agriculture minister of Lower Saxony says the farmers of the region are setting a very good example of their commitment to improving animal welfare.

According to the Minister, Christian Meyer, around 600,000 laying hens and more than 115,000 finishing pigs will benefit from this engagement by small- and medium-sized producers.

He expressed his surprise at the high level of applications, while confirming that the available funding will be sufficient to cover the premiums, which amount to EUR16.50 (US$18.22)per pig with an undocked tail and better housing conditions, and EUR1.70 (US$1.88) per hen with an intact beak and more space.

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Meyer is encouraging new entrants to farming to ensure they are trained in the industry’s best practices, and added that especially the small- and medium-sized businesses are pushing accepted boundaries to improve animal welfare.

Initially, for one year, more than EUR1.9 million are available to pig farmers and almost EUR950,000 for egg producers. The scheme may be offered again in 2016 to increase gradually farm animal welfare over time. As well as the changes to production procedures, those who work with the animals will be expected to participate in sessions offering advice and training.

The chamber of agriculture is now in the process of assessing the applications, and in the second half of this year, approved pig producers will participate in consultation sessions. The first premiums for the higher welfare standards will be paid in December 2015.