Farrowing Paddock Management

Tips on hut design and managing outdoor farrowing from BPEX in No. 32 in its series, Action for Productivity.
calendar icon 5 June 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

Outdoor production accounts for 41 per cent of the English breeding sow herd and principles can be applied that provide the basis for reducing losses in these systems.

When born, piglets are exposed to a drop in environmental temperature and as they dry off, they lose heat through evaporation, resulting in a further reduction in body temperature. The lower critical temperature for neonatal piglets is approximately 34°C. However, in an outdoor situation, it is more difficult to achieve precise temperature control than in indoor systems. The provision of substrates, such as straw, to build a nest and provide insulation and warmth are therefore important considerations for outdoor producers.


  • To achieve 11.9 pigs born alive per litter or more
  • To reduce pre-weaning mortality to 10 per cent or less, and
  • To finish 25.3 pigs per sow per year

(Based on Agrosoft data Dec 2009 – top 10 per cent UK outdoor breeding herds)

Various huts are available on the market today

Pre-weaning mortality of 10 to 14 per cent is common on UK units, with about 50 per cent of all piglet losses occurring in the first three days after birth. Piglet crushing (trauma) by sows accounts for about 40 per cent of all pre-weaning mortality and is a leading cause of piglet mortality in both indoor and outdoor farrowing systems.

This sheet provides farrowing paddock management guidelines to help you improve productivity on your unit(s).

Importance of Hut Design

There are countless farrowing hut designs and the type a producer chooses will be dependent on budget and personal preference. Some key points to help evaluate the choice of farrowing hut design include:

  • ability of sow to stand up and lie down comfortably (in terms of sow length and width)
  • freedom from injury (both sows and piglets)
  • maintenance of sow body condition, e.g. insulated huts help maintain a relatively stable internal temperature and in turn maintain sow appetite
  • ability for sow and piglets to nurse comfortably
  • ability to make full postural adjustments, including turning, and
  • ability to build a functional nest

If you have different types of hut on the same unit, measure the performance differences from the various designs and use to make informed decisions. It is also a good idea to share the data with other producers and compare performance.

Importance of Stockpeople

The stockperson plays an important role in the productivity of a unit:

  • providing a dry, clean,well-bedded farrowing hut
  • interacting with sows, gaining their trust
  • observing around farrowing and addressing any problems, and
  • carrying out routine ‘one stop’ tasks quietly and efficiently so as not to stress sows or piglets.

Management Guidelines

Paddock layout

  • Farrowing huts should be sited on the best land available, preferably a free-draining and level site
  • Make sure each hut has a fender available which is in working order
  • The direction huts face should be adjusted according to the season and topography of the site
  • Never have a hut or fender closer than 1.5 metres from the fence line; this will leave sufficient room for sows to move around the hut/fender without getting an electric shock
  • The base of the huts should be dug-in to reduce draughts
  • If curtains are used, they should be placed on the door fronts before farrowing when piglets will be wet and most likely to become chilled
  • Ensure all vents or flaps are operational as draughts cause piglets to lie in unfavourable areas, increasing the likelihood of crushing
  • Ideally, sows and gilts should be placed in single farrowing paddocks to facilitate management
  • Individual farrowing paddocks should ideally be 20 square metres, preferably weed-free
  • Place drinkers (troughs) no more than 10 metres walking distance from huts and avoid electric fence lines.
  • See Action for Productivity 2: Strawing up for further information.

Other Considerations

‘One Stop’ farrowing trailer
  • Try to keep the spread of farrowing to a minimum within the same row of individual paddocks eg seven days maximum, this will create an easier feeding and weaning regime
  • At weaning, remove and reposition huts, keeping them in neat straight lines
  • Remove soiled bedding and place farrowing huts onto a fresh part of the paddock between every farrowing
  • Remember, piglets need to be kept clean, dry, warm, well-bedded, draught free and experience minimal temperature fluctuations. See Action for Productivity 5: Creep feeding, 9: Establishing the weaned pig and 14: Newborn management for further information.
  • A fostering box is an important tool and must be built of a material that is easily cleaned and disinfected after each use
  • General appearance and tidiness of the unit is very important as on-farm conditions are an extension to those standards shown from landlords of arable land in terms of hygiene, tidiness and enthusiasm.

June 2012

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