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Considering Housing Gestating Sows in Groups?

14 November 2013

Michigan Pork Quarterly

A review of the educational resources available for pork producers to assist them in the adoption of group sow housing from Ronald O. Bates (State Swine Specialist at Michigan State University and Extension Educator, Beth Ferry.


Michigan legislation will mandate that gestating sows must be able to turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs. In practice this has been taken that sows will be housed in groups during gestation.

Michigan pork producers must be in compliance by 1 April 2020.

The National Pork Board has sponsored the development of educational materials to be used by pork producers and their consultants in the adoption of group sow housing. This information is available on the National Pork Board web site ( and is free of charge.

Pork Producer Resources

As pork producers evaluate options for remodeling and renovating their facilities to adopt group sow housing, little information has been available for them to determine what options are available and best fit their operational needs.

To improve the educational resource options, the National Pork Board sponsored the developed of educational resources to assist pork producers in the evaluation of group sow housing options and improve their understanding of the management of gestating sows when housed in groups.

The topics chosen for development were based on issues identified by Michigan pork producers in focus groups concerning the pending mandate on group sow housing (Bates et al., 2012). The topics available, and the authors of each, are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. National Pork Board Group Sow Housing Educational Materials
Group Housing Systems: Choices and Designs Don Levis
Group Housing Systems: Forming Gilt and Sow Groups Rob Knox and Mark Estienne
Group Housing Systems: Floor Space Allocation and Group Size Harold Gonyou, Fiona Rioja-Lang and Yolande Seddon
Group Housing Systems: Genetic Considerations Ken Stalder, Caitlyn Abel, Joe Stock, A.E. Christian, D.P. Miller and Mark Knauer
Group Housing Systems: Nutritional Considerations Joel DeRouchey and Mike Tokach
Group Housing Systems: Production Flow and Management Ron Bates and Elizabeth Ferry
Group Housing Systems: New and Conversion Construction Jay Harmon
Group Housing Systems: Economics of Sow-Housing Conversions Steve McWilliams

A recorded webinar is available for each topic. This is a voice-recorded slide presentation in which the authors discuss key points of the subject. A fact sheet accompanies each topic. Each fact sheet contains a comprehensive review of the scientific literature along with management tips and recommendations.

These fact sheets can be used to develop a better understanding of the issues surrounding management of sows housed in groups as well as providing information necessary to formulate implementation and management plans. The fact sheets are among the most comprehensive sources of information regarding the care and management of group-housed sows.

In addition, management tips, videos and 'how-to' educational resources have also been developed. These resources cover topics such as 'Ventilation Maintenance', 'Body Condition Scoring', 'Identifying Lameness', 'Worker Safety', 'Behavior of Sows at Mixing' and 'Heat Detection'.

There are 12 or more different topics in which educational resources have been develop to assist in training farm staff and address implementation concerns regarding group sow housing. These can also be found on the National Pork Board web site (


A major, national effort has been completed to provide pork producers further resources to assist them in the adoption of group sow housing. This is one of the most comprehensive developments of educational resources for group sow housing completed to date.

Pork producers can use these resources to improve their understanding of group sow housing options and use them to develop implementation and management plans. In addition, further resources have been developed to assist in the education and training of issues related to day-to-day implementation concerns.

Furthermore MSUE Educators can be contacted to assist in the develop of group housing transition plans.


Bates, R.O., E. Ferry, T. Guthrie, G. May, D.W Rozeboom and J. Siegford. 2012. Assessment of pork producer educational needs for adoption of group sow housing. J. of Extension. 50(3):3RIB6.

November 2013

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