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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Housing the Sow Without Crates - Challenges and Solutions

item Marchant-Forde, Jeremy

Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 2, 2003
Publication Date: June 22, 2003

Technical Abstract: Confining sows in crates throughout gestation, farrowing and lactation is commonplace in North America. In Europe, crating the sow throughout gestation will be prohibited from 2013 and the farrowing crate continues to be scrutinized by a powerful animal welfare lobby. In North America, major retailing chains are already introducing welfare guidelines and the issue of sow housing is an area that is attracting a great deal of attention, not least because of recent legislation enacted in Florida. However, loose housing of the gestating and farrowing sow does present real challenges that need to be addressed in order to safeguard pig welfare and ultimately, productivity. The major challenge of group housing the gestating sow is that of inter-sow aggression. Sows will fight especially when mixed and when having to compete for access to resources. Therefore, the ways in which sows are introduced to each other and how they are fed are major factors in determining the success or failure of a system. For loose-housed farrowing sows, the major challenge is that of safeguarding the welfare of her piglets, in terms of pre-weaning mortality and ensuring even growth. Over the last decade, aspects of sow housing have undergone a great amount of research. Although the majority of this work has been carried out outside of North America, many of the research results are likely to be directly applicable to the swine industry here. This paper will highlight work done to date with a focus on the development of practical solutions, derived from both system design and system management techniques, that allow the skilled and motivated stockperson to work what are called alternative housing systems. At the end of the day, it is the stockperson who will ensure the success or failure of any sow housing system and the welfare of sows within that system. However, the tools do exist to safeguard pig welfare and productivity when removing them from confinement systems and, importantly, perhaps address some of the negative public perceptions about the swine industry.

Last Modified: 4/22/2015
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